– Commission to meet on way forward today
By Shikema Dey
The Secretariat of the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), headed by Chief Elections Officer (CEO) Keith Lowenfield, yesterday passed a directive that ballot boxes from District Four will not be counted or tabulated for lack of official statutory documents.
Approximately, 29 ballot boxes from the East Coast of Demerara, primarily in Opposition People’s Progressive Party (PPP) strongholds were affected by the Secretariat’s decision.
Kaieteur News understands that on Thursday, an APNU+AFC Coalition counting agent pointed out that many of the ballot boxes emerging from Montrose, La Bonne Intention (LBI), and Chateau Margot communities were missing statutory documents such as the counterfoils, official lists of electors (OLEs), folios, spoiled ballots, damaged ballots, and proxies.
The coalition agent suggested that the “Recount of votes not validated due to absence of statutory documents” be placed on the observation report. This was met with objections from the other parties’ agents and, according to information received, the note was made. It should be pointed that objections made by the other party representatives were not noted.
Yesterday, when the party agents started the recount, the suggestion was made once again by a Coalition agent however, this time, the Recount Supervisor announced that a decision was taken to note on the observation report that “Recount of votes not validated due to absence of statutory documents.”
The previous observation report which noted that it was the APNU+AFC counting agent who made the suggestion that “Recount of votes not validated due to absence of statutory documents” was later retracted and replaced. The language of the new observation report did not state that it was an allegation made by a coalition counting agent. The language cast it is an observation by GECOM itself. Inquiries were made as to who passed down the decision and the party agents were informed that it came directly from the Secretariat.
When the ballot boxes were sent to be tabulated, the IT Supervisor informed tabulation agents that he had been instructed by the Secretariat to not tabulate any box with the term ‘not validated’ or ‘invalid’ on the observation report.
Commissioner Sase Gunraj, when contacted, confirmed that the directive indeed emerged from GECOM’s Secretariat as the six-member Commission did not meet that day to make decisions on matters emerging from the recount process.
On one Observation Report from an LBI polling station for ballot box #4641, it was noted on the OR that the “Recount of votes not validated due to absence of statutory documents” which included the total list of electors marked as voted on the OLE; no used or unused tender ballots and no used ballot box seals. Additionally, the OR noted that there were oaths of identities signed for voters but the entry was not recorded in the poll books.
Earlier in the recount process, the issue of missing documents including poll books had surfaced. Questions were raised on whether this would affect the recount but the Commission took a decision that despite the missing documents, the recount would proceed.
A checklist system was introduced to note the missing documents. This had no affect on the actual recount of the votes in the boxes. The Commission is expected to meet today to make a decision on what will happen to those ballot boxes.
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