Jun 03, 2018 News
While the atmosphere at the last regional and general elections was peaceful, reports had indicated that there was some anxiety as it relates to counting of the votes at several areas across the country.
Reports also pointed to a delay in the transfer of some electoral materials and processing of results due to a buildup of people at several polling stations.
International observer group, Carter Centre, reported that the public anxiety subsided as the results were disclosed.
However, the declarations were made several hours after they were scheduled to be released following the coordinated help of the Guyana Elections Commission, (GECOM) and the police to facilitate the transfer of the critical data.
Carter Centre issued a detailed preliminary statement calling for reform of the elections commission, campaign financing laws and urging the political parties here to reevaluate their structures as their leaders appear out of touch with Guyanese.
Included in the recommendation the Carter Centre pointed to the need for an improved data entry and tabulation process.
While the tabulation system in Guyana is thorough, the slow pace of the process creates a vacuum of information that fuels suspicion and mistrust.
The Carter Centre suggested therefore that GECOM considers a full review of tabulation procedures, possibly including steps such as a double-blind data-entry system to enhance accuracy and confidence. Improved tabulation procedures and timely dissemination of information will increase trust in the overall process.
However, three years has elapsed since the last set of recommendations was made by the international observer group and no action has been taken by the Guyana Elections towards reforming the electoral system.
Officials attached to GECOM have recently commented on the matter and explained that the Commission is yet to look at the recommendation.
According to the officials, consideration is yet to be made as it regards the suggestions.
GECOM officials have also noted that based on their projections the recommendations will not be in place for the upcoming General Elections
Following the May 2015 polls, the Carter Centre suggested that among other things consideration be given to a centralized electronic tabulation system that includes double-blind data entry and clear procedures for the handling of quarantined materials to ensure the integrity of the tabulation process.
The centre said that it believes this approach will ensure that the process is transparent, verifiable and will allow for the timely release of the elections results.
Both the People’s Progressive Party Civic (PPP/C) and the APNU+AFC had bemoaned the more than one week it took the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) to declare the winner of the last election.
The Carter Center believes that if this is corrected there will be few opportunities for persons to question the process that was used in the conduct of the electoral process.
As the country awaited the last election results many questions were raised and there was talk among both support bases of the two major political parties, of a plan to ‘fudge’ the results thereby ensuring a desired result.
Additionally, the centre called for a marriage of the tabulations conducted by the returning officers and the central tallying system. The centre believes this is necessary since it will add another layer to veracity of the results.
It is to this end that the call is also being made for GECOM to institute the double-blind data entry system. This is where a computer compares the same entry made by two individuals by analysing each keystroke.
This system will alert officials if there are any attempts at imputing a dishonest figure and will leave little or no room for allegations of vote rigging.
In 2011, the Commonwealth Observer groups had also made similar recommendations regarding voting, counting and elections results. They said that in order to ensure that voters have access to timely and accurate information on Election Day to identify their respective polling stations, a region-wide copy of the voters list could be provided to each polling place, so that an official could accurately re-direct any voter not knowing their place of poll.
Accuracy in the tabulation process is critical, the observer group noted. It is equally clear that the process is also time sensitive.
The Commonwealth Observer Group recommended that GECOM should, in consultation with stakeholders, look into means by which the process can be streamlined in order to speed it up, while maintaining accuracy, transparency and accountability.
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