Govt GECOM Commissioners accused of attempting to remove 20,000 persons from voters’ list

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The Government-nominated Commissioners at the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) are attempting to remove some 20,000 persons from the voters’ list, who have failed to uplift their identification (ID) cards – which will disenfranchise them.

This was revealed by People’s Progressive Party (PPP)-nominated Commissioner, Bibi Shadick, following Tuesday’s more than three-hour-long meeting.

“Right now the push is to let people not vote… There’s a push to deregister some people because they didn’t go and uplift their ID cards and they don’t know where they [are],” she told reporters.

Approximately 20,000 persons have not uplifted their ID cards since 2008. It was explained that GECOM will be putting out notices and advertisements to alert those persons to collect their IDs.

But according to Shadick, there are some people who think there is no need for ID cards so they never bothered to collect them. Moreover, she noted that there are cases where persons would have moved to other parts of the country, such as the hinterland, and cannot conveniently come out to uplift their ID cards.

Back in August, Chief Justice Roxane George ruled that persons cannot be removed from the voters’ list unless they are dead or otherwise disqualified to vote under Article 159 (2) (3) or (4) – something which the PPP Commissioner reminded.

However, Government-nominated Commissioner, Vincent Alexander explained to reporters that these persons will be given the opportunity to verify their existence before they are taken off the list.

“The consensus seems to be that we should do everything to contact them, whether it’s register mail or publication in the papers. Everything should be done to contact them and if they are not contacted then the contentious issue is what do we do?… The proposition is that they not be placed on the voters’ list because simply their whereabouts unknown. You can’t verify their existence,” he posited.

However, while the Government Commissioners are attempting to take persons off the list for not having ID cards, in Guyana there is no requirement that a person must have an ID card to vote.

In 2015, with over 35,000 identification cards still sitting at GECOM that belong to persons registered since 2008, the then GECOM Chairman, Dr Steve Surujbally, had said that persons do not need ID cards to vote at the May 11, 2015 elections.

As a matter of fact, it is the current GECOM Chair, Justice Claudette Singh, who in 1998 in the High Court case ruled that the requirement for voters to have a voter ID card in 1997 was ultra vires Articles 59 and 159 of the Constitution (despite a parliamentary agreement to use the cards) when Esther Pereira, a PNC supporter, petitioned the High Court to set aside the results of the 1997 elections.