On April 8, 2020, the Board of Directors of the institute decided to provide a complete technical, logistic, and operations proposal for the national recount for consideration by all stakeholders, particularly GECOM, political parties, and the electors. This decision was made in recognition of the incompleteness of the 2020 General and Regional Elections, the concerns of all stakeholders, the state of Guyana’s economy amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and the risks of international sanctions and isolation Guyana faces as a result of the lack of credibility of the tabulation process.
On April 9, 2020, the institute released a plan that it believes can deliver a credible recount of the votes cast in the 2020 General and Regional Elections in 12 days. The plan has been endorsed by 7 political parties that have contested the recent elections. In recognition of this fact and calls for administrative details necessary to implement the plan, the institute is proposing the following administrative structure and arrangements. Details of the proposed administrative structure and arrangements are as follow:
- Security of Containers with Ballot Boxes – the containers with the ballot boxes for all regions should be transported under police escort, accompanied by party agents and kept together at the ACCC. Further, the containers should be placed with their doors facing each other to prevent unauthorized access until the recount exercise commences. Above normal security should be provided to ensure these containers are kept safe. This includes allowing party agents and observers access to the containers to ensure they are not compromised. Party agents and observers can be allowed to inspect the containers in pairs to allow for social distancing.
- Ballot Box Access Teams – two teams should be formed comprising the individuals listed in Figure 1 below to provide access to the ballot boxes from the containers to each recount team. By limiting the number of teams that will be managing access to the ballot boxes to 2, social distancing requirements can be observed. More importantly, this will allow for an organized, documented, and secured process of accessing the ballot boxes. The 10 regions can be split into two sets, by regions, roughly equaling half of the total electors, and assigned to each of the two access teams. Each team will have a log sheet for the regions assigned to it with all the ballot box numbers in sequential order. The log sheet will be used to issue the boxes in order of their number. No more than 4 boxes should be issued to the recount team at a time. When the recount team completes the recount of the 4 ballot boxes, they will seal and return the boxes to the access team and uplift the next 4 boxes. The RO/DRO including party observers present should sign the log sheet every time they uplift and return the ballot boxes.
- Recount Teams – as explained earlier and as shown in Figure 1 below, recount teams are responsible for recounting of the ballots for the respective regions. Each team is responsible for uplifting the ballot boxes from the “Ballot Box Access Teams” and immediately return them when the recount of those boxes is completed. After returning the boxes, the recount team will uplift the next 4 boxes and proceed to recount the ballots, and the process continues. If the 12-hour shift is completed and the recount team on duty is in the process of recounting the ballots for a particular box, the team should complete the recount of that box before the next team takes over the process. This would allow for a smooth transition of the recount from one team to the other.
- Tabulation Teams – at the end of the recount of the ballots in each ballot box, a Statement of Recount (SORs) would be prepared, signed by the relevant individuals and copies will be issued to the party agents. A copy of each SOR should be published on GECOM’s website at the end of each day (24 hours of recount) in mirroring the requirement of posting a copy of the SOP in a conspicuous place outside of the polling stations. This way the public is not excluded from the process. The “Tabulation Team” for a region is the last recount team that is on duty. If, however, this team has worked for more than half the shift (more than 6 hours) and the recount of all the boxes for that region has been completed, the next team on the rotation schedule should assume duty and complete the tabulation of all the SORs. This provides an added check and balance in the process to guard against any particular team having vested interest in the tabulation process itself. The RO/DRO on the tabulation team should prepare, issue and sign the regional declaration before passing this on to the CEO’s team. Finally, a copy of each regional declaration should be published on GECOM’s website as they become available for the public’s benefit.
- CEO’s Team – the CEO’s team refers to GECOM’s CEO and his team of staff that is responsible for tabulating the national figures, determining seat allocation, etc. In addition to the CEO and his team of staff, this team should include at least 1 international observer from one of the international missions, at least 1 local observer from the local observer groups, and at least 1 agent from the political parties. The observers and party agents will observe and provide oversight to the CEO’s team to ensure that the regional declarations submitted to the CEO are authentic (exactly those declarations made and signed by all authorized parties for each region) and are used to prepare the CEO’s report for the Elections Commission.
- Guyana Elections Commission – this plan does not alter or interferes in any way with the working and functions of the elections commission. As per law, the commission upon receiving the CEO’s report will meet, discuss all related matters, and then vote on the report. Once the commission approves the report, the Chairman of the commission would make the national declaration. Under this proposed plan, the process can be completed within 24 hours after the last regional declaration has been made.
On the institute’s proposal
The Guyana Budget Policy Institute is a non-partisan policy think tank that was founded on the idea that Guyana is a country with strong democratic institutions and limitless freedom where people who work hard can build a future, raise a family, run a business, and where the government is accountable to the people. Free, fair and credible elections are the cornerstone of Guyana’s democracy and are the ultimate checks and balances that the constitution has placed in the hands of citizens. When elections are not completed in a free, fair, credible and timely manner, the constitutional rights of citizens and the legitimacy of their government are compromised. Thus, no other call to public service is higher than to support the completion of free, fair, credible and timely elections. It is on this ideal and these convictions that the institute has proposed publicly a plan that can deliver a credible and transparent recount of the ballots cast in the 2020 General and Regional Elections. The sole purpose is to provide knowledge and expertise to help all stakeholders as they seek solutions to the challenges before them and more importantly to help decision-makers make informed decisions that benefit all.