Lowenfield has no authority to determine validity of votes – Nandlall reminds as final report due today

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L-R: Keith Lowenfield and Anil Nandlall

People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) Executive Member Anil Nandlall is reminding Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield that he has no authority to “willy-nilly” determine the validity of votes cast in the elections and that he should be guided by the prescribed laws.

Lowenfield is expected to submit the final elections report to the Chairperson of the Guyana Elections Commission Justice Claudette Singh today before 13:00hrs.

Justice Singh had advised Lowenfield to prepare his final report, pursuant to Article 177 (2) (b) of the Constitution and Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act, and in accordance with the numbers emanating from the recently-concluded national recount.

Those numbers show the PPP/C winning the elections by over 15,000 votes.

However, the APNU/AFC Coalition, which will be ousted from Executive Office, has been making numerous unsubstantiated allegations of dead and migrated persons having voted.

As such, the Coalition is urging Lowenfield to revise the figures from the recount to give it a win.

The new argument from the APNU/AFC camp is that Section 96 of the Representation of the People Act confers upon the Chief Election Officer, a power to ascertain the validity of votes and that he can only calculate votes that he determines to be valid.

But this is not the case.

Nandlall explained that Section 96 provides: “The Chief Election Officer shall, after calculating the total number of valid votes of electors which have been cast for each list of candidates, on the basis of the votes counted and the information furnished by returning officers under Section 84 (11), ascertain the result of the election in accordance with Sections 97 and 98. (2). The Chief Election Officer shall prepare a report manually and in electronic form in terms of Section 99 for the benefit of the Commission, which shall be the basis for the Commission to declare and publish the election results under Section 99.”

The certified results for all ten regions emanating from the recount confirm a victory for the PPP/C.

As such, Nandlall noted that the notion being peddled that Lowenfield could function independently or disregard the directions of the Commission was one that is rooted in pure ignorance of the relevant legislation governing the CEO’s functions.

He explained that the CEO was at all times subservient to the Commission and could only act in accordance with the direction. He added that Lowenfield remained under the control of the Commission as outlined in Section 18 of the Election Laws (Amendment) Act. The Section states: “The Chief Election Officer and the Commissioner of Registration shall notwithstanding anything written in any law be subject to the direction and control of the Commission.”

From the inception, the Commission determined a way forward in relation to the validity of votes.

It was settled that a vote is valid, once ex facie, the ballot paper is authentic, it is authorised by bearing the six-digit stamp of the Presiding Officer or any part thereof and it has a mark of the voter which proximately relates to the symbol of a political party.

“In the circumstances, the Chief Election Officer, being subject to the Commission, can neither defy, nor act outside of the four corners of these principles. In short, his function remains quite mechanical, which is, to use the total of valid votes already calculated and submitted to the Commission and comply with the remainder of Section 96. He has no legal latitude to do anything else,” Nandlall argued.

Lowenfield has already submitted the total valid votes cast for each List of Candidates for the General and Regional Elections, as generated by the national recount exercise in his initial report.