The Preliminary List of Electors (PLE) has grown by over 75,000 since the 2011 general election and the projected cost of the 2015 poll could be well over the $2.5 billion spent in 2011.
The Guyana Elections Commission held a press conference yesterday at Cara Lodge, Georgetown, to update the media on the current claims and objections period that will end on Sunday, February 22, 2015.
It gave the current size of the PLE as 567,125 compared to the roughly 492,000 in 2011.
Chairman of the Commission, Dr Steve Surujbally noted that it was not desirable for deceased persons to remain on the list or to have persons who had previously verified their addresses but had since left the jurisdiction to remain on the roll. He noted that removing names from the list of electors is difficult, citing restrictions in the laws. He restated that the commission will be advocating for additional mechanisms to be put in place to allow for name removals in the future.
Currently, the framework requires that the General Register Office (GRO) provide the commission with proof of death for a deceased person to legally be removed from the National Register of Registrants which is utilised as the base for the PLE. Last year there was controversy between the PPP and Gecom over the removal of the names of dead persons. The PPP had cited the name of at least one prominent person to show that the list had not been purged of the names of the dead.
The Chairman noted that the costs associated with a number of necessities for the various political parties such as to have scrutineers and fingerprint verification and resulting legal battles are not necessary, but are the current realities. He said that without many of these “frivolous matters” and more trust the cost of a general election could be significantly reduced.
Speaking to the media after the press briefing, Chief Election Officer, Keith Lowenfield said that he could not give a specific figure for the current election budget. However Lowenfield did note that all disbursements needed the approval of the Head of the Presidential Secretariat, Dr Roger Luncheon and are documented and submitted.
He revealed that over 3,200 new claimants would be added to the PLE while over 3000 persons had requested a transfer. The Chief Election Officer said that these changes will result in a revised list that will be posted at the same 1541 sites where the PLEs were published prior. This will allow electors to verify the list for a second time before an Official List of Electors (OLE) is completed. He did not say when the OLE would be published. However electors will have 21 days from the publishing of the revised list to make further claims and objections.
Lowenfield said that this process is done in conjunction with party scrutineers and to their satisfaction. Currently the PLE is also available on Gecom’s website and persons are able to check using names or identification numbers.
For the scheduled general election on May 11, , 2261 polling stations have been identified with Gecom estimating that there will need to be in excess of 12,000 persons employed temporarily. As it stands Gecom is maintaining that no polling station will have in excess of 400 electors casting votes and this will reduce the time for each to vote and help ensure that persons are not disenfranchised.
The Chief Election Officer noted that the commission does have its concerns still and that hiring temporary staff is complicated and training difficult. He noted that the commission was hiring more than the amount of persons needed to allow for a buffer. He noted that if the commission needed 20 staff for a particular location training was being done for 25 or 30 persons.
Deputy CEO Vishnu Persaud revealed that since 2008 the commission has been in possession of over 30,000 identification cards, however not having an identification card does not mean that persons will be prevented from exercising their franchise. Each polling station will be equipped with folios that have the credentials complete with a photograph of every eligible voter.