GECOM admits only errors through “inadvertence” can be changed

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Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo has warned that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is insisting on making 91,000 changes to the Revised List of Electors (RLE) by ignoring the specific mandate of the regulation it cited as authority for its move.

GECOM in a statement on Thursday contended that the 91,000 changes being made are legal and within the statutory timeline catered for in the laws.

The Commission claimed that Regulation 37 of the National Registration (Residents) Regulations Act, Chapter 19:08 provides for the Commissioner of National Registration to make corrections to the RLE.

Regulation 37 states: “If within the period of 21 days after he had certified lists, the Commissioner is satisfied that any entry or omission in any list as revised pursuant to Regulation 35 is incorrect through inadvertence in the course of such revision, he shall make or cause to be made the requisite correction to that list and such copy thereof as is open for inspection at any registration office and the Commissioner shall give to the person to whom such correction relates notice thereof, which may be sent by registered post to his last known address.”

Using this provision, GECOM insisted that it was vital to ensure that persons who would have had changes done to their addresses during the H2H exercise, were in accordance with the law and did not fall outside of the statutory period.

“GECOM has a duty to ensure that the information of all electors is accurately reflected on the Official List of Electors to avoid confusion. If that process is not done, electors would be required to travel to their old addresses to vote. As such, those persons would be displaced and disenfranchised which could result in low voter turnout and questionable election results,” the elections body noted in the missive.

But, according to the PPP in a Press Release issued late Thursday, the cited regulation clearly limits the Commissioner of National Registration to correct errors on the list as a result of “inadvertence.”

“It was never intended to give powers to the Commissioner to make sweeping changes as is being done now (over 91,000),” the Party insisted.

It further outlined that the regulation speaks to the elector being properly notified of changes to their particulars. As such, the PPP asked that the Chief Elections Officer inform the relevant stakeholders and the public as to whether he informed the 91,000 persons that he intended to change their particulars.

If he has not done so as yet, the Party enquired as to when he intended to do so in compliance with Regulation 37 of the National Registration (Residents) Regulations Act, Chapter 19:08, especially since the country is just days away from the publication of the Official List of Electors (OLE).

Speaking at his weekly press conference on Thursday, Jagdeo contended that even any minor error made during this exercise that is undertaken by the Elections Commission to update the RLE using data obtained during the scrapped House-to-House (H2H) Registration could see persons being displaced on Election Day.

“There is an obligation on the part of the CEO (Chief Elections Officer Keith Lowenfield) and the Chair (Justice Claudette Singh) of GECOM to ensure – if these changes are not reversible – that each of these changes are verified. And that’s GECOM’s responsibility and the Chair’s responsibility because if it leads to displacement, people will be disenfranchised,” he stated.

Jagdeo said he had raised these concerns with the foreign advisors here to assist GECOM during the electoral process and according to him, many of them are shocked at the changes being made now.

“They assured us that they will be trying to verify from GECOM why these changes are taking place and what systems they have internally to ensure that all these changes are accurate that are being made,” he noted.