GECOM still probing unstamped ballots
DPI, Guyana, Wednesday, May 20, 2020
The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is determining how it will address the issue of a number of unstamped ballots, believed to be those of the disciplined forces.
These ballots were discovered during the ongoing national recount of votes from the March 2, 2020, General and Regional Elections.
Following a commission meeting today GECOM Commissioner Vincent Alexander said elections body addressed two scenarios; one is where half of the ballot papers were stamped and the other half was not.
On condition that there is an equal number of unstamped ballots with those stamped, and in the instance where they are identified as those belonging to the disciplined services, the commission agreed that those should equally be counted as valid votes.
While the electoral laws dictate that an unstamped ballot should be discarded, Alexander said the recommendation in this regard, is within the “spirit of the law.”
“The law has different approaches. There are statutory laws where no discretion should be exercised; “black and white.” The law also provides for instances of “mischief”. Therefore one can understand the mischief intended to be addressed and interpret the law,” he told journalists today.
The Commissioner said when a ballot is stamped at a polling station; the real intention is to ensure that no one inserts invalid ballots.
“The stamp is intended to give more security and integrity to GECOM. In our circumstances, if we can discern that the issue of integrity is not at risk, in the circumstance where a person may be disenfranchised, then you have to come down on the side of the potential disenfranchised person.”
He said it is not against the law, but rather an application of the law, using the starting point of what was the intention of the law and striving to achieve that very intention.
Regarding the ‘mix-up’ with the Official List of Electors (OLE) at the Diamond Nursery school, Alexander reported that the Presiding Officers (PO) were called in yesterday; however, they did not show up.
Counting Agents discovered on Monday that two OLE’s from the same polling place were in each other’s box.
The commission had earlier met with the opposition PPP, where they listened to some recommendations put forward to reach the 25-day recount deadline. The party is requesting that the commission increases the number of workstations to help accelerate the recount process.
The recommendation comes even though the National COVID-19 Task Force in its most recent report, raised concerns over the more than 400 people who gather daily at the conference centre, in the wake of the pandemic.
The task force had approved two additional workstations on Monday.
Commissioner Alexander said that the Opposition Leader Bharrat Jagdeo had recently conceded that even as the commission seeks to accelerate the process, it still would be difficult to reach the 25-day deadline.
“So yes, we are going to consider what they have said, but the issue of 25 days is no guarantee that we will make it. Twenty-five days was always the estimate which we said we would review and the review is ongoing and the fact that we have two additional stations is a result of that review and it will continue,”.
He reminded that GECOM remains under the guidance of the NCTF, particularly regarding the global health issue.
“And GECOM has to work with that body. GECOM cannot say that it is a constitutional body and therefore they need to pay regard to nobody else. The same way GECOM has its jurisdiction, others have their jurisdiction and we ought to have mutual respect between the organs of the State.”