The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) is in a mess. The problems which the Commission and its Secretariat are encountering reflect a palpable lack of understanding of data science.
If GECOM wishes to extricate itself from its present conundrum, it should hire the services of a qualified statistician. Such a person would help to clear up much of the confusion existing over the large number of uncollected identification cards and the massive number of “non-hits” in the fingerprint cross-matching exercise.
GECOM’s Secretariat is light years behind the rest of the world in terms of employing statistical measures to improve its analysis of data. It is appalling that in the 21st century, GECOM has not resorted to these tools to help it resolve its data problems.
One set of data problems concern those persons who have not collected their national identification cards. Some persons have reportedly not uplifted cards issued more than ten years now.
Guyanese are the first to clamour to be registered. But when the registration is completed, they do not bother to turn up to collect their identification card until they are forced to do so.
There are two ways in which GECOM can accelerate the collection of these cards. It should ask the government to legitimise all the old forms of identification and make it mandatory for persons to use the new identification card for official transactions.
The second method which can be used is to offer a $5000 incentive for persons to collect the identification cards. Either of these methods will lead to persons storming the registration centres to uplift their identification cards.
One Commissioner of GECOM is concerned as to whether the large number of uncollected cards could mean that many of those who have not done so are either dead or out of the jurisdiction. In either case, this should not be a problem. Those who are dead cannot vote and those who have migrated cannot be denied the right to vote.
But there is a way to verify whether the large numbers of uncollected identification cards belong to the dead or to persons who now reside outside Guyana. All that GECOM has to do is to hire a qualified statistician who will extract a representative sample from the list of uncollected identification cards.
A small sample of 300 names should be sufficient enough to be representative. A physical check for these persons’ addresses at their registered address should be done and this would provide some information as to if the person has moved to a new address, has migrated or is dead.
The political parties do not have to wait on GECOM to do this. In fact, they should be doing their own verification. If is it found that there are large numbers of dead persons on this list of the names of uncollected identification cards, and if these names also appear on the Official List of Electors, then it means that the list may be terminally contaminated
The other controversy concerns the cross-matching of fingerprints. One opposition-nominated Commissioner has reported that some 13,000 fingerprints, from persons who are not new registrants, have not received ‘hits’ during the cross-matching of fingerprints.
In other words, the system has not matched up these fingerprint obtained during the recent house-house-registration with the fingerprints in the old database.
This is an excessively large number of unmatched fingerprints. Hypothetically, it would seem to suggest that the problem may be with the cross-matching exercise rather than being a case of fraudulent registrations.
Again, there are statistical tools which can help to determine whether there are fraudulent registrations involved or whether the problem is cross-matching process.
GECOM, therefore, has to up its game. It is squabbling unnecessarily instead of using statistical tools to help analyse some of the data problems, which are emerging. This failure suggests that Guyana is going backwards rather than forwards.
Unless there are assurances that technically skilled persons, including statisticians, would be placed in the Commission permanently, then the international community should cease all financial assistance to the Secretariat. GECOM has to get its house in order and do so quickly.
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