…says Claims and Objections, Continuous Registration would satisfy eligible voters
With the coalition and its supporters calling erroneously for house-to-house registration and even deliberately spreading falsehoods about the process of getting on the Official List of Electors, a Guyana Elections Commissioner and lawyer has pointed out that house-to-house registration is, in fact, not catered for under the law.
In an interview with INews on Saturday, GECOM Commissioner Sase Gunraj set out to clarify the misconceptions surrounding house-to-house registration. He pointed out that there is no legal requirement for this exercise but rather, there is a legal requirement for the Claims and Objections period.
“House-to-house registration is not catered for under the law. That needs to be said. The law caters for a first list to be generated by house-to-house registration. And from that first list, it is to be constantly refreshed by periods of Continuous Registration and Claims And Objections.”
“Continuous Registration is particularly to capture persons 14 to 18 years and Claims and Objections, to allow any entitled person to go on to the list or objections to be made to persons who are not entitled to be on the list, for example, if they have died,” the GECOM Commissioner said.
Gunraj noted that the decision for GECOM to carry out house-to-house registration, which involves registration teams visiting persons at their addresses to fill forms, take fingerprints and pictures, was taken long before he became a Commissioner.
The Commissioner also stressed that contrary to what is being peddled about the need for house-to-house registration, the system (and law) caters for including eligible persons on the voters’ list after cycles of Continuous Registration and Claims and Objection periods are carried out.
“No person attaining the age of 18 will be disenfranchised, because a Claims and Objections period captures those persons. So, house-to-house registration is just a ploy to delay the elections further,” he added.
Registration is catered for under Section 6 of the National Registration Act Cap 19:08, with the intent of having those 14 and over included on the National Register of Registrants. On August 4, 2005, then President Bharrat Jagdeo assented to amendments of the Act by including provisions for Continuous Registration.
These amendments were in keeping with an international push away from house-to-house registration and towards Continuous Registration as the more effective method of registering voters.
According to Section 6 (A) of the Amendments, “the Elections Commission shall use the Official List of Electors from the 2001 General and Regional Elections as the base to commence continuing registration”.
This meant that persons not on the 2001 Official List of Electors were legally required to visit registration offices in their respective registration areas to apply to be included on the list (though it is understood that GECOM officers would usually visit the homes of those who are disabled). The same holds true for the next (and last) time house-to-house registration would be done, which was in 2008.
Despite all of this, however, GECOM was hit by protests on Friday by A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) Ministers and a few supporters, who shouted the chorus of “no registration, no elections”.
This comes on the heels of the decision handed down by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) on Tuesday last, that the No-Confidence Motion tabled in Guyana’s National Assembly in December 2018 had been validly passed and, therefore, general elections must be held within a stipulated time frame.