Guyana opposition heads to court to void voters list

Georgetown, Guyana – The opposition coalition, A Partnership for National Unity and the Alliance for Change (APNU+AFC) is asking the High Court to scrap the voters list to be used in the March 2023 Local Government Elections (LGE).

In the application filed by Chief Scrutineer of the APNU+AFC, Carol Smith-Joseph, against the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM), the Chief Election Officer and the Attorney General, the Opposition is seeking a total of 14 declarations and four orders intended to nullify the preliminary List and give rise to a new register of voters.

Joseph, through her attorney, Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde, is asking the High Court to declare that the Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) acted unlawfully when it opted not to compile the Preliminary List of Voters for the Local Elections in accordance with the Local Authorities (Elections) Act as amended by Act No. 15 of 2015.

In addition, she is asking the HIGH Court to rule that GECOM is required to act in accordance with Section 11 of the Local Authorities (Election) Act in compiling the Preliminary List of Voters, and further that it is legally required to prepare a Register of Voters for use at Elections for Local Authority Areas in accordance with Sections 12, 13, 14, 20, 22 and 23.

Joseph said failure to comply with the legislation would render the Register of Voters for Local Government Elections null, void and of no legal effect.

She is also asking the High Court to declare that the Constitutional duty of the Elections Commission, as provided for in Article 162 of the Constitution to compile a Register of Voters, imposes a duty to compile a reasonably accurate and credible Register of Voters.

Joseph wants “a declaration that the Register of Voters extracted pursuant to Section 5 (6) of the Election Laws Amendment Act by the Guyana Elections Commission for use at Local Government Elections is not reasonably accurate or credible thereby making the same unconstitutional, unlawful, null, void and of no legal effect.”

Forde has told the High Court that that at all material times prior to 2022, GECOM conducted claims and objections in respect of the Voters List on the basis of Local Authority Areas and Constituencies and not exclusively on the basis of Divisions and Subdivisions for the holding of National and Regional Elections.

He is asking the High Court to issue an Order setting aside the Order issued by GECOM for the purpose of extracting a List of Electors for Local Government Elections on the ground that it is ultra vires and unlawful.

The opposition is also arguing that the existing voters list was extracted from the list for general and regional elections, and does not take consider residency of electors.

On the matter of residency, the High Court will have to decide whether an Election Laws amendment in 2000 is unconstitutional because it purportedly confers discretion on GECOM the authority to exercise discretion on whether an elector is a resident in a local authority area or is “ordinarily resident” in keeping with the law. (CMC)

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