Guyana’s Chief Elections Officer, Keith Lowenfield, shared the view in 2015 that electoral fraud by voter impersonation is “just not possible”.
His comments were made as he sat beside then Chairman of GECOM, Dr. Steve Surubally, as seen in a video published yesterday by the online news outfit, News Room.
In the footage, Lowenfield gave a play-by-play breakdown of the multiple safeguards established at the place of poll on Election Day to prevent electoral fraud.
In a pre-amble to his explanation, Lowenfield said, “The issue with this concept, it has to be a rumour that you can vote at more than one location. Well, I don’t know. The reality is, for you to vote at a polling station, you have to be listed to vote there. In that polling station, our presiding officer and the party agents will have a list that is specific to that polling station.”
As he begins to explain, he is interrupted by Dr. Surujbally, who says “The folio…”
“I ain’t even meet the folio yet,” Lowenfield responds, then begins his explanation.
“So when you come into the polling station,” he can be heard saying, “my list says that there’s Keith Lowenfield to vote, Keith Lowenfield is announced.”
The two major parties were able to place field agents at just about every single polling station in the country for the March 2 polls. Kaieteur News had asked PNCR executive, Aubrey Norton, during the national recount, whether the coalition’s agents were able to have field agents at all 2,339 stations, and he affirmed that they did. Some of the other political parties had agents scattered across a handful of polling stations, depending on their capacity and reach.
Party agents are there to protect their party’s interests and to ensure no untoward occurrence gets pass GECOM’s polling day staff.
“The agents for their respective parties say, yeah, Keith Lowenfield,” the CEO explains, “and they draw a line across Lowenfield’s name, and then you go through the process and you collect your ballot.”
Lowenfield explains that at this juncture, the polling day officials show the ballots to the agents, so they can see that it is stamped on the regional section and on the general section.
After that, he explains, “you go into your booth and you vote.”
Now, if you go to another polling station, then Keith Lowenfield name would not be there,” he said.
“So you’re not even having access to polling station two or three, or you say how many times. There is no accessibility because your name is not there.”
Some persons have managed to diminish or prevent the stain of the electoral ink on their finger after they vote, with the use of Vaseline. But even this, Lowenfield explained, will not be enough for one to successfully cast a fraudulent vote.
“Even if you impersonate, you are Lowenfield,” he explained, “your Vaseline has worked and you removed the ink, when you go there, say you go there in another name, but you don’t have an ID card.”
In cases where the voter doesn’t have an ID card, they will still be allowed to vote as long as they swear or affirm an oath of identity.
“Then the folio that the Chairman has referenced comes into play,” Lowenfield says.
This document allows the polling day officials to question the prospective voter to ensure they are who they say they are.
“Our staff…” Lowenfield continues, “GECOM PO (Presiding Officer) and APO (Assistant Presiding Officer), they have all the folio for all the persons listed at that specific polling station. So you come, somebody give you a name. You know Troy lives ‘round the corner. So you come, you seh “I’m Troy Johnson” and you don’t have an ID card. Yuh have to pass through the process of probably having the features of Troy. And our presiding officer will be asking you, since you don’t have an ID card, as the Chairman mentioned earlier, ‘what’s your name? And your date of birth is? And your mother middle name is?’”
“So there are questions we have for you, you who are coming to impersonate some Troy,” Lowenfield emphasizes.
“So I think we need to put to rest the concept that a man could leave polling station A in Cummingsburg and go across to Alberttown or Queenstown, and hop around to vote. It’s just not possible.”
The Chief Elections Officer’s comments, made five years ago, stand in stark contrast to his views expressed in 2020, after incorporating a campaign by APNU+AFC to discredit the elections, into his reports to the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM).
The recount results show that the PPP/C has won 233,336 valid General Election votes over APNU+AFC’s 217,920. However, Lowenfield has since produced two reports, which do not reflect those results. Both of Lowenfield’s reports seek to remove thousands of valid votes on the condition that they are tainted by voter impersonation and procedural irregularities.
The first, his preliminary report, suggested that GECOM discard 269,619 valid General Election votes, a majority of those, which were cast on March 2. The remainder of that would have given the coalition a lead of more than 68,000 votes over PPP/C. However, the Chair, Justice Claudette Singh, instructed him to produce a report on the results of the recount and nothing else.
In response, following a ruling by the Court of Appeal on a contentious case on what constitutes a valid vote; Lowenfield produced a second report, which now seeks to discard 115,844 valid General Election votes, with no explanation. His revision of the results, like the preliminary report, would also give the coalition a lead.
The PPP/C has moved to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) appealing the Court of Appeal’s ruling, in a move the party hopes would convince the Caribbean Court to provide definitive instructions on the way forward.
The Chief Elections Officer, due to his actions, now faces charges of criminal conspiracy to commit fraud, and misconduct in public office. The US Government has also instructed its State Department to hold accountable those who are undermining Guyana’s democracy. As the US is in support of a declaration on the basis of the recount results, Lowenfield is seen as a likely target.
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