‘We have lost confidence in the Chief Elections Officer’ – City Chamber tells GECOM Chair

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L-R: Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer and Keith Lowenfield

The Georgetown Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GCCI), said that it has lost all confidence in Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, as manager of the Elections Commission Secretariat due to the number of times he has displayed a partisan approach to carrying his duties.

“We have lost confidence entirely in Mr. Lowenfield as the CEO and manager of the Secretariat of GECOM.”

“We believe that it would be keeping with the purpose of free and fair elections to exclude the prejudicial report on Observation Reports submitted by the CEO to the Commission in your consideration of the results of the election,” the Chamber said in a letter to Chairperson, Justice (Rtd) Claudette Singh.

The letter was copied to the Carter Center, Caribbean Community (CARICOM), The Commonwealth and Organization of American States (OAS).

Following is the full letter:

Dear Justice Singh,

As you are aware, the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI) was accredited as a Local Observer and it observed the entire March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections (GRE) from polling day to present, including the recount exercise. We wish to congratulate you on an exercise that was well conducted and produced a true and accurate vote count, representing the will of the electorate.

However, as per our Terms of Reference as accredited observers, under The Rights and Privileges of Local/Domestic Observer to “inform the Elections Commission promptly of any irregularities that may affect the credibility of the election or prejudice the electoral process”, we would like to draw your attention to unfair and irregular actions undertaken by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Secretariat that were completely outside of the scope of the Recount Order.

These at first seemed tangential. However, having seen the way in which the Chief Elections Officer (CEO), Keith Lowenfield, has elevated aspects of the Observation Reports into his report and representations to the Commission, we wish to formally record that in our assessment, the CEO’s report on the Observation Reports is prejudiced and represents a non-credible aspect of the recount exercise.

During the recount exercise, at the beginning of the recount for each ballot box, APNU+AFC agents would call out a large list of serial numbers and object to those voters on the grounds that they impersonated the dead or were out of the jurisdiction. They sometimes called serial numbers not related to the ballot box. GECOM staff would then tell the APNU+AFC agents whether any of those serial numbers were marked as voted on the Official List of Electors (OLE). No one was afforded the opportunity to witness the OLEs and verify whether the information being given by GECOM staff was authentic. The APNU+AFC agents never asked. Requests by other party agents were denied.

On the basis of the information GECOM staff provided about marked electors, the APNU+AFC agents would then tell GECOM that they objected to the voters marked on the grounds that they impersonated the dead or were out of the jurisdiction. Other parties objected to this forming part of the record of Observation Reports because, aside from the fact that GECOM staff appeared to have assisted APNU+AFC with providing particulars of electors using OLEs, APNU+AFC agents provided no evidence. Still, GECOM staff went ahead and recorded the objections and reasons for these objections in the Observation Reports. We noted that other party agents formally objected to the APNU+AFC’s objections, but GECOM staff refused to record those objections in the Observation Reports. This practice continued throughout the recount process.

In his treatment of the APNU-AFC objections in his report to the Commission on the recount, the CEO omitted to mention that all political party agents present objected to the APNU+AFC objections. He treats the APNU+AFC objections as credible and goes on to claim that through an opaque bilateral process with relevant authorities, GECOM was able to receive information confirming these allegations to be true.

Others have commented that this is outside of GECOM’s authority and the analysis provided by the CEO was completely outside of the scope of the Recount Order. We agree but wish to draw your attention to the fact that even if it were within the scope of the exercise, it failed to meet basic standards of transparency in allowing persons against whom claims were being made the opportunity to know and respond, as would be afforded in a basic claims and objections process. Therefore, there is no credibility whatsoever at any level of this exercise or to anything for which the information was used.

We are concerned not only about the credibility of this process but also what the CEO’s actions mean for public perception of the integrity of the March 2, 2020 GRE. The CEO appears to have used the authority that comes with the post of Chief Elections Officer to take unverified information and legitimize it to both the Commission, and obviously, the public. This conforms wholly with a public campaign that the APNU+AFC has been waging to discredit the entire March 2, 2020 elections now that the recount exercise has proven beyond doubt that GECOM did indeed declare fraudulent District 4 elections results. We need not remind you that these results would have incorrectly given the APNU-AFC party majority seats in Parliament and the Presidency. It is extraordinary that Mr. Lowenfield has wandered into discussing the credibility of the elections in his report but has not made a single mention of this glaring find.

It is also remarkable that as a senior election official, the CEO does not apply the best practice approach in elections, to calculate the percentage of votes that are alleged to be illegally cast as a percent of the entire votes at the ballot box, district, or national level, and provide an analysis of whether these could have changed the overall result of the election. Instead Mr. Lowenfield only employs a novel approach that was being widely pedalled by the APNU+AFC party of “boxes impacted”.

Mr. Lowenfield also makes no real effort to address what are administrative errors versus alleged fraud in his “boxes impacted” analysis. For example, the Representation of the Peoples Act requires that ballots cast and ballots rejected are to be sealed in a ballot box. It is GECOM’s administrative manual that asks for other documents, including Official Lists of Electors, to be sealed in boxes. The failure of Presiding Officers to have been consistent and the purported failure of GECOM to find large numbers of document indicts more rapidly the quality of administration than it does the credibility of the elections. Yet, Mr. Lowenfield chose to labour on the latter.

We fear that Mr. Lowenfield has now three times shown a partial disposition to one list of the candidates in the execution of his duties. The first is his repeated failed as Mr. Mingo’s supervisor to direct him to use the Statements of Poll (SOPs) to tabulate the District 4 results. The second is his inclusion of Mr. Mingo’s fraudulent declaration in his summary report of the elections to the Commission when he had himself checked in the presence of witnesses and seen that the tabulation of two ballot boxes did not correspond with the SOPs; and he must have had access to GECOM’s SOPs to know that the tabulation did not reflect the numbers recorded on those SOPs. Now we have  Mr. Lowenfield’s analysis that treats observation reports in a manner that is outside the scope of his remit, unsubstantiated and biased, but manages to cast doubt on the credibility of the elections.

We have lost confidence entirely in Mr. Lowenfield as the CEO and manager of the Secretariat of GECOM. We believe that it would be keeping with the purpose of free and fair elections to exclude the prejudicial report on Observation Reports submitted by the CEO to the Commission in your consideration of the results of the election.

Please accept my best regards.

Yours sincerely,

Nicholas Deygoo-Boyer