May 11, 2020 News
By Shikema Dey
It was a fairly smooth day five of the National Recount which saw the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) completing 208 ballot boxes of votes cast in the March 2, 2020 General and Regional Elections.
GECOM’s Public Relations Officer Yolanda Ward was happy to report to the press that day five was completed without a hitch, seeing the tabulation of some 190 Statements of Recount (SORs) for the General Elections and 180 for Regional.
She relayed to the media outside the Arthur Chung Convention Center that 51 ballot boxes were counted with 11 for District One; 10 for District Two; 17 for District Three and the remaining 13 for District Four.
“We have had no major issues today; we continue to engage stakeholders based on decisions made by the commission that are based on their objections. We have had no major issues but we continue to have an engaged process.”
Slight shift in sequential order
The PRO stated that the Commission met to deliberate on several issues arising from the recount process; mainly the deviation from the sequential order of counting.
Initially, the Commission had made a decision to not open ballot boxes after 5pm, citing that it would take the recount process beyond its 7pm cut off time.
Opposition Commissioner Sase Gunraj who deemed it “a waste of precious man hours.” However, Ward reported that the Commission yesterday took a decision to open ballot boxes containing a minute number of ballots which is a deviation from the sequential counting order.
“While we will try to stick with that 5 O’ Clock mark, we will narrow it down to ensure that we select a box that may have a small number of ballot boxes. Hence, the sequential aspect at that particular juncture will not be applicable.”
The PRO pointed out that while GECOM is striving to maintain the sequential order, they must ensure that they do not go past the 7pm deadline.
“It was a decision that they would try to work out in terms of completing a small box so that it’s completed by 7,” she told the press.
Claims of migrated voters
Meanwhile, several claims were also raised by the governing coalition that persons who have ticked off as voted, have migrated.
Presidential Candidate of The Citizenship Initiative, Rhonda Lam argued that there would be no way to know definitively whether a voter was in Guyana at the time unless the party had access to their immigration records, a clear violation of privacy. She objected to their personal movement records being placed into the public domain.
The PRO told the media that any such claims will be placed in the tabulation report and are just that.
On that note, Ward also made it clear that the Commission has decided to ensure that the correct language is used on the Observation Reports (ORs).
According to Ward, “some persons felt that the language was more so, stating as if it was factual without the evidence being presented.”
She cautioned party agents and staff at the work stations who are tasked with preparing the ORs to “be careful” with the language being used on the reports, particularly if there is no evidence to substantiate the claim.
“They have to ensure they use words such as allegation or, it was alleged or so, as it relates to that,” Ward said.
Asked about the significance of the OR’s in the recount process, GECOM’s PRO relayed that Commission has made any determination on how critical the report is. She, however, noted that one of the key objectives of this recount also was to establish the credibility of the elections process.
Use of cell phones at workstations
The Commission decided on the limited use of cell phones at the workstations. According to Ward, streaming at the workstation is strictly prohibited.
She explained that “The use of cell phones particularly as it relates to the counting exercise will not be allowed for any streaming purposes, but only to take photographs of the ballot box when it arrives at the work station.”
“This is to satisfy persons who would want to ensure that the seals are intact and for their records.”
Cell phones can be used to take a photograph of the completed SOR when that is produced at the end of the count.
Along with that, the Commission also decided that they would permit three agents per political party to be present during the tabulation exercise.
They are also slated to meet with representatives of the Liberty and Justice Party, The New Movement, A New And United Guyana, Change Guyana, the United Republican Party and The Citizenship Initiative today to hammer out several issues that they have addressed.
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