Recount can be done while adhering to COVID-19 regulations – GECOM Commissioners

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The anticipated national recount of ballots cast at the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections can be done by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) while having observers present and adhering to public health guidelines on preventing COVID-19.

This is according to the proposal submitted by Commissioners Sase Gunraj, Bibi Shadick and Robeson Benn, who comprise half of the GECOM Commissioners. Their proposal counters the one for a 156-day recount, which was previously submitted by GECOM Chief Election Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield.

PPP GECOM Commissioners L-R: Sase Gunraj, Robeson Benn and Bibi Shadick.

According to their proposals, their expectation is that those entitled to be there under Section 86 of the Representation of the People Act Cap 1:03 will be catered for when Lowenfield presents his amended recount plan. Such persons include party agents and observers.

“While the COVID-19 Health Regulations will be adhered to at all times, the integrity and scrutiny of this process is also of paramount importance,” the party noted in their proposals, which were submitted when the commission met on Thursday.

The plan also specifies that each tabulation workstation shall be comprised of authorised GECOM staff, as well as representatives from each of the contesting political parties and accredited observers, with the original Statement of Recount (SoR) being used to tabulate.

“The original SoR is taken by the DRO to the tabulation workstation or desk to be manually and electronically tabulated by team of authorised GECOM staff, which shall be observed and verified by party representatives and accredited observers. Each SoR and the accumulated totals shall be continuously projected for public scrutiny and transparency,” the plan states.

In the plan, the Commissioners laid out the resources and support that will be required for the exercise. These include checklists for the ballot boxes, Statements of Recount (SoRs), tally sheets and ballot box seals.

In addition, they noted that additional equipment will have to be rented to establish additional workstations. When it comes to moving the ballot boxes from GECOM Headquarters on High and Cowan Street, Kingston, to the Arthur Chung Conference Centre, they noted that arrangements must be made for the Guyana Police Force to accompany the boxes, as well as arrangements for staff participating in the recount.

As of Saturday, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases had climbed to 45. While the number of confirmed cases moved five places up from Friday’s update, the country’s COVID-19 deaths remain the same, at six.

Since its first coronavirus death on March 11, the country has recorded five more deaths – all within the past two weeks. Measures such as curfews have been put in place, while social distancing has been emphasised.

It has already been over a month of controversies and a credible winner for the 2020 General and Regional Elections is yet to be declared. After two discredited declarations from Region Four’s (Demerara-Mahaica) Returning Officer Clairmont Mingo, which lacked transparency, Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo and caretaker President David Granger had agreed to have the Caribbean Community (Caricom) oversee the recount.

That agreement was derailed when A Partnership for National Unity/Alliance For Change (APNU/AFC) candidate, Ulita Moore, moved to the courts and secured an injunction against the exercise. That injunction has since been discharged by the Full Court and upheld by the Court of Appeal and preparations for the recount are being made.