By Shikema Dey
A false claim by PNCR Executive Aubrey Norton that in APNU+AFC strongholds, a vast majority of unstamped ballots were discovered including the more than 8,000 ballots cast by members of the Joint Services was debunked by the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) Public Relations Officer, Yolanda Ward.
Norton on May 22, during an engagement with the press had claimed that “that there is a close correlation between unstamped ballots and APNU+AFC strongholds.”
The PNCR Executive told the press that “We have seen that, wherever there is intermixing for the Joint Services, a large amount of ballots have not been stamped. Let us understand that the joint services is 8,000+ votes.”
He alleged that it was a “strategic plot” by the Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) and Presiding Officers at varying polling stations where the Joint Services ballots were intermixed.
“I believe strategically, the PPP chose those intermixing centres, and worked with the POs they control, to ensure that those ballots weren’t stamped. So I come back to the theme, clearly, these are not anomalies. Clear evidence of fraud and rigging,” Norton said.
His claim was also published on May 22 by the Department of Public Information (DPI) who outright claimed in an article, that the “irregularities” discovered by the party are instances of “electoral fraud” which included “the more than 8,000 unstamped ballots of the disciplined forces.”
Ward during an appearance at the Recount Media Center on Monday clarified that most of the ballots rejected were for varying reasons other than the missing GECOM six-digit stamp.
So far, for the recount, a total of 1,536 rejected ballots across the five tabulated regions were discovered. Of that figure, 380 came from District One; 251 from District Two; 485 for District Three; 256 for District Five and 164 from District Seven. For the regional elections, there were a total of 1,927 rejected ballots.
The total number of rejected ballots as given by Ward is nowhere in the 8,000 ballpark of unstamped ballots as claimed by the Coalition. Representatives of political parties including the PPP, A New And United Guyana along with The Citizenship Initiative and The Liberty and Justice Party have all condemned the allegation made by the Coalition and called on the members of the Joint Forces to reject it and focus on the facts. Various representatives from these parties have argued that it would be impossible to pinpoint the votes by the Joint Services due to the intermixing process.
Ward explained that the void ballots discovered, including unstamped ballots, were rejected in some cases because the identity of the voter could be determined while, in other cases, the intention of the voter may not have been clear or a voter may have marked the ballot for two political parties.
The GECOM PRO said that the issue of unstamped ballots is still being ventilated at the level of the Commission including the claim put forward by the Coalition as the numbers found, were deemed “concerning.”
She said, “Because of some of the numbers that were emanating from some of those boxes, it was believed that some of those could’ve been a case where the Disciplined Services ballots were not stamped.”
Ballots for the Joint Services are not stamped when they voted ten days prior to March 2, 2020 Elections. Those are given the six-digit GECOM stamp at the time of intermixing at the polling stations where they have been gazetted to be intermixed.
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