The Opposition PPP/C raised a number of concerns at a press conference the party hosted earlier today, in relation to observances made during voting by the Disciplined Services on March 8th; the main one being voting without national ID cards.
The party issued the following statement:
The People’s Progressive Party/Civic (PPP/C) would like to draw the public and the media’s attention to a number of observations made during voting by the Disciplined Services for the Local Government Elections, on March 8th, , 2016.
Voting without National Identification Cards.
The PPP/C repeats its alarm at the high incidence of Disciplined Services (DS) Electors presenting themselves without a National Identification (ID) card for the purposes of voting. It notes that, while the detailed statistics on this phenomenon are being reviewed, the widespread and unusual occurrences of this nature can only serve to undermine the integrity of the polls. While it is still possible to vote after the proper administering of an “Oath of Identity” the opportunity can be used for electoral fraud by; the misdirecting of voters; double and multiple voting by impersonation and collusion; and the slowing down of the process of voting leading to voter frustration and disorder at the polling places.
The PPP/C remains firmly of the view that voting without an ID card should be a rare exception rather than a new normal situation. Note has also been taken of the seeming failure of GECOM’s voter education efforts which has incurred enormous expenditures.
The PPP/C is calling on GECOM to immediately take advantage of the intervening seven (7) days to Local Government Elections Day, March 18th 2016, to vigorously encourage electors to show up with their ID cards to vote.
Further the Party is reviewing this issue, based on the experience of past elections, to require a legislative change which allows for only a valid ID card being presented by an elector for identification for voting.
Use of the “Sample Ballot”
The PPP/C has noted complaints of long and excessive explanations by presiding officers of the sample ballot. This is said as being done where there has been no request from the elector for advice or explanation. It is of the view that the voter education efforts by the political stakeholders and also those of GECOM should be more than adequate to educate the elector on how to vote. Again, only on a request being made by an elector for voting advice should explanations by the presiding officers be required.
Existence and Maintenance of the “2oo Yard Boundary”
The electoral laws require that a 200 Yards Boundary shall exist and be maintained at every place of polling. This requirement has been the subject of standing breaches in certain polling areas. It has been observed that at the just recently concluded disciplined services voting that persons who were not officially involved in the process were usually within 30 or less feet of the process and were observing and commenting on same.
If one adheres to the legal requirements it may very well turn out that the voting by all DS electors were invalid because of this fundamental breach! A review of this issue is underway with proposals to be offered for a satisfactory solution.
Inappropriate Coloured Symbolism at Disciplined Services Polling Places
A number of unsettling symbolic colours of a political nature were observed at DS polling places. These included:
Green coloured tablecloths covering the poll tables at polling places at major Guyana Defense Force locations. What was notable was that the colour was not of the GDF’s camouflage or other service types but was clearly that of the type of colour used by the main political party now at the seat of government and which is known to have strong military links.
At some Guyana Police Force locations white tablecloths with a broad green stripe were on the poll tables.
Large shopping type bags of a green colour were on the poll tables or otherwise prominently displayed by female poll agents of the APNU/AFC at most DS poll places.
Voter Molestation and Intimidation of Disciplined Services Voters.
It was noted again that senior military and police officials had arrogated unto themselves the role of turning out the vote at practically all the DS locations used for voting. It was noted that officers and NCOs were in possession of lists of the electors and had the task of actively and loudly urging the electors to join the lines to vote. Complaints have been made of harassment and threats to voters if they did not comply with “instructions”. It was also observed that, particularly towards the end of the balloting, DS electors were being ferried in groups by service vehicles to the polling places to vote.
The PPP/C wishes to identify these practices by senior disciplined services officers as constituting a breach of the electoral laws under the rubric of “Voter Molestation and Intimidation”.
The only lawful role for military and police officialdom with respect to the DS voter on DS election day is to provide the opportunity to vote lawfully.
GECOM Officials Desk Designator Place Markers.
It was noted that all of the polling desk designators of GECOM Staff were prominently embossed in a green roundel with a yellow interior. The PPP/C is requesting an early explanation from GECOM Chairman Dr. Steve Surujbally with respect to this public display of political bias by GECOM.
Quality of Folio Pictures of Electors
The PPP/C notes again that the quality of folio pictures used for identification of voters remains unsatisfactory. In many instances it was impossible to identify a voter with certainty – particularly if that vote showed up without an ID card. The party is repeating its demand that coloured pictures be provided to all scrutineers to allow for the indisputable identification of voters.
At GDF Coastguard there was no folio provided and 28 persons voted without ID cards out of 118 voters with a further 13 persons not being permitted to vote !
Diversity of GECOM Employed Staff.
The PPP/C notes that inspite of its repeated calls for GECOM to address the public concerns over the lack of diversity representation of its polling day staff the staffing presented on DS polling day constituted, preliminarily, of over seventy-five (75) percent of one ethnic group.
In closing the party notes the rather low turnout of disciplined service voters as constituting 54.9 percent of 6,978 registered DS voters. A total of 3,831 DS electors did not vote and of those who voted a high number of 513 voted without ID cards representing 13.4 percent of the persons who voted on DS LGE day.