Dear Editor,

Reference is made to a sitting Commissioner at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), Mr. Vincent Alexander’s letter to the editor, published on March 7, 2024, with the caption, “…GECOM Commissioner sounds alarm over bloated list ahead of 2025 poll”.

The Commissioner contends that the list produced by GECOM of some 706,439 voters will soon exceed the resident population of Guyana. Basing his analysis on the estimated school age population of 200,000, the Commissioner argued that the “voting population should be 580,000, which means the voters list exceeds the resident population by no less than 126,439.”

In an attempt to further bolster his argument, the Commissioner contends that there is no mechanism in place to remove deceased persons from the list who are residing abroad, that this is an unremedied flaw in the system. As such, his proposal to remedy this alleged flaw is for the introduction of biometrics.

The opposition nominated GECOM Commissioner’s foregoing assertions on the “bloated” voters’ list, ignored multiple irrefutable facts to the contrary, as outlined hereunder.

The Representation of the People Act (Cap. 1:03) was amended to cater for cycles of continuous registration in 2005. The enactment of this amendment effectively replaced the need for “fresh” house to house (HTH) registration exercise each time there is general and regional elections. Hence, the reason why GECOM has regional offices across the country. Consequently, the registration system became more efficient and reduced substantially, the cost incurred for periodic HTH. Following this amendment, GECOM conducted eight cycles of continuous registration up to 2016.

The electoral laws provide for the protection of Guyanese rights to vote in an election, who have migrated provided that they are in the country and have been registered. Therefore, Guyanese living abroad cannot be legally or constitutionally removed from the NRR. In fact, there was a High Court ruling on this matter by the Chief Justice (a.g.), that resulted in the abortion of the last attempt to conduct a fresh HTH by the APNU+AFC Government. This was acknowledged by the Commissioner in his missive.

As it pertains to the removal of dead persons on the voters’ list, there is a mechanism in place whereby the General Register Office (GRO), periodically supply GECOM with a list of persons who died. The deceased persons as per the said report are then flagged in the NRR, who are then excluded from the voters’ list, which is extracted from the NRR. Additionally, during the claims and objections period, the general public, including political parties can submit claims or objections to persons on the voters’ list who may have passed away or should otherwise be disqualified in accordance with the Constitution. The GECOM Commissioner is full well aware of this procedure, which is actively in place.

Of interest to note, according to the Bureau of Statistics data on the total number of deceased persons for the period 2009–2022, a total of 70,680 persons died during that period (14 years), which accounted for 9% the population. The number of deaths in 2009 was reportedly 3,849 which increased to 6,818 (77%) in 2022, with an annual average of 5,049 deaths over that period.

In respect of Guyanese residing abroad who might have been in the country and voted at the general and regional elections, this deduction can be made easily by examining the immigration data. For example, in 2015 the total arrivals in the country was reportedly 277,906 and departures were 282,394, giving rise to a net departure for that year of 4,488 persons. It is safe to presume that at least 70% of visitors to Guyana are Guyanese. Therefore, it would be correct to say that no less 195,000 Guyanese returned home in 2015, and some of whom might have participated in the 2015 elections.

Similarly, in 2020, owing to the lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the total arrivals in that year was reportedly 105,138 and total departures of 99,821, giving rise to a net arrival of 5,317 persons. In the year prior (2019), the total number of arrival was reportedly 357,362 and total departure of 322,294, giving rise to a net arrival of 35,068. Assuming that the net arrival in 2019 remained in 2020 for the elections; it would be safe to presume that at least 100,000 overseas-based Guyanese were in Guyana, some of whom might have voted in the 2020 general and regional elections legally. It could be a relatively small percentage, modest or large percentage of the total arrivals for the respective years.

The aforementioned demonstration is a fact that cannot be disputed―that is, tens of thousands of Guyanese residing abroad were in the country during the election period.

In relation to the Commissioner’s contention regarding persons who died abroad, he failed to consider that his proposed solution of biometrics would still not address the issue of their removal from the voters’ list, which is his main contention.

It is worth noting that the current system in place is an extremely stringent voting procedure that it is nearly impossible for there to be voters’ fraud. For instance, the level of scrutiny, inter alia, the voters’ verification and/or identification process is very stringent.

Towards that end, at each polling station on election day, there are several representatives including from all the political parties, scrutineers, supervisors, GECOM staff, and observers present at the time of voting. With this in mind, perhaps the only way for there to be a successful “voter impersonation” fraud, would require that all and sundry (the political parties included) to be complicit in facilitating such an act.

More importantly, it is worth reminding that when the political opposition won the parliamentary majority in 2011, there was no such claim that the voters’ list was bloated. In 2015, when the then opposition won the general and regional elections, there was no such claim of a bloated list. Even in the 2020 elections, up to on the election day, the APNU+AFC made no such claim. The claims of a bloated list surfaced after the APNU+AFC realized that they had lost the elections and were viciously attempting to alter the results.

In view of the foregoing, the GECOM Commissioner has failed to credibly demonstrate that the voters’ list is bloated, while ignoring a number of critical irrefutable facts. On the issue of biometrics, the Commissioner has failed to acknowledge that biometrics cannot be introduced in a whimsical manner.

For there to be any amendment or the introduction of a new procedure and/or technology for voting purposes, the electoral laws would have to be amended accordingly. Furthermore, it is likely, too, that the Constitution may have to be amended, which necessitates a different procedure altogether to accommodate any such constitutional and/or legal amendments or reform to the electoral system.

Yours respectfully,

Joel Bhagwandin


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