Chief Election Officer (CEO) Vishnu Persaud has proposed February 13, 2023, as the earliest possible date that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) would be able to hold Local Government Elections (LGE).
However, he has been directed to revise the plan to reflect a date in mid or late January 2023, according to Commissioner Vincent Alexander.
During a brief interview with Stabroek News yesterday following GECOM’s statutory meeting, Alexander said that the CEO acted on the advice of the Commis-sion and reviewed his earlier proposed plan but the date was extended.
“The CEO came to us with a plan that proposed a date sometime in February and after we reviewed it we directed him to come up with another plan. We are hoping to stick to a date in January, the last part, so he now has to bring another plan so we can see what he comes up with,” Alexander said.
Alexander refused to confirm whether it was February 13 that was proposed by Persaud. However, a senior GECOM source told Stabroek News that it was indeed February 13 that was placed in the work plan for LGE.
At the previous meeting of the Commission, Persaud proposed a date of December 12, 2022, for the polls. Alexander had said that the date fell outside of the statutory deadline of the Commission and as such the CEO was asked to revise it.
Local Government Elections were constitutionally due at the end of last year but GECOM was without a Chief Election Officer and could not have prepared to host the elections.
Yesterday, government-nominated Commissioner Sase Gunraj told Stabroek News that an updated work plan for the LGE was presented to the Commission but no determination was made.
“We have a draft work plan that has a date for next year but we have not approved that plan as yet. We have not discussed and interrogated that plan as yet and only after we do that we can then decide on what date we can propose for elections,” Gunraj said.
After the Commission approves its work plan, it would then indicate its readiness to the Minister of Local Government and Regional Development and the proposed date. The Minister would then, on the advice of GECOM, announce the date for LGE.
Once the date is announced, GECOM would announce nomination day and begin preparation for the procurement of indelible ink, ballot papers and other election-related materials.
GECOM embarked on a continuous registration process back in March, particularly targeting new applicants. The continuous registration cycle concluded on May 29, 2022, with over 49,000 persons being registered for the first time. A total of 70,041 transactions were conducted during the period. 28,149 were new registrants between the ages of 14 and 17, while 21,130 were new registrants above the age of 18. Additionally, 4,629 persons applied for transfers, 6,526 persons changed or corrected their information, 7,667 applied for replacement identification cards and 1,940 registrants retook their ID photos.
At the beginning of June, the Commission’s Secretariat released a list of vacancies for “polling day staff for Local Government Elections.” The Commission is looking for Presiding Officers, Assistant Presiding Officers, Poll Clerks, Ballot Clerks/ Counting Assistants and Information Clerks. That process concluded at the end of June. Stabroek News had reported that the Secretariat decided to go ahead with the advertisement for polling day staff to be prepared for whenever the Commission announces a date.
Earlier in August, GECOM announced that it will embark on a countrywide claims and objections exercise from Monday, August 22. The aim of the exercise is to produce an official list of electors (OLE) and it will be conducted at all the GECOM permanent Registration Offices in the 10 Administrative Regions.
During the Claims and Objections period, any person who will be 18 years and older by the 31st October, 2022, and is a Guyanese citizen by birth, descent, or naturalization, or is a citizen from a Commonwealth country living in Guyana for one year or more, can make a Claim on or before 11th September, 2022 to be included on the OLE, providing that he/she was never previously registered.
Persons desirous of making a Claim to be included in the OLE are required to visit the GECOM Registration Office responsible for their area of residence with the applicable source document(s) such as original Birth Certificate, valid Passport, Adoption Certificate, or Naturalization Certificate / Certificate of Registration to be registered for inclusion.
The Commission urged that existing registrants check the preliminary list of electors (PLE) posted in their respective districts to verify the accuracy of their registration information. It added that persons who are required to update their registration records such as changes or corrections to their names and occupation or to apply for a transfer in relation to their addresses would also be facilitated during this exercise.
GECOM had said that objections against the inclusion of names in the PLE can be tendered to the Registration Officer of the Registration Area from August 22 to September 15. Objections can be made by an elector who is listed in the same Division list/Sub Division list in which the person being objected to is listed.
Objections can also be made by approved Scrutineers of Political Parties provided that any such Scrutineer has monitoring responsibilities for the Division/Sub Division in which the person being objected to is listed. The relevant original document(s) such as an original Death Certificate must be presented at the time of the hearing to support the basis upon which the objection is made.
No home visits
GECOM, in a statement yesterday, said that it is in receipt of information that persons purporting to be employees have been visiting homes seeking information about data in the Preliminary List of Electors (PLE). The Commission made it clear that it is not currently engaged in any such exercise nor has authorized anyone – employee or otherwise – to collect information from any person for any reason whatsoever through house – to-house visits.
“An integral component of the ongoing Claims and Objections exercise requires Registration Staff and Scrutineers to visit the given residential addresses of applicants for registration to verify that the applicants actually live at the addresses they would have provided. The applicants are informed of this mandatory visit at the time of the registration transaction, and based on the established Standard Operating Procedure (SoP), GECOM Staff and Scrutineers must display their respective identification and accreditation badges throughout all such visits,” the statement read.
Additionally, GECOM said that it is cognizant that political parties may be currently engaged in their own field activities and called on them not to identify as GECOM employees.
GECOM urged citizens to be extremely cautious and to verify the identity of persons visiting their homes before providing any solicited information. Persons are asked to contact GECOM on telephone numbers 225-0277-9, 223-9653, 225-5808, or 225-5868 to report or clarify any concerns.
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