In a move that could possibly affect the conduct of Local Government Elections in March 2023, the opposition APNU+AFC has moved to the Courts to have the Preliminary List of Voters for the Local Government Elections scrapped.
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 fourteen declarations and four orders intended to nullify the preliminary List and give rise to a new register of voters.
Through her attorney, Opposition Member of Parliament and Senior Counsel, Roysdale Forde, Ms. Joseph has asked the High Court to declare that the Elections Commission 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.
Further, Ms Joseph is asking the 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.
Through her Attorney, Ms 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 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.
The APNU+AFC Chief Scrutineer also 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.”
Ms. Joseph is asking the Court to declare that Section 5 (6) of the Election Laws, (Amendment) Act consequent upon the judgment of the High Court in Ram versus Attorney General of Guyana is obsolete, unworkable and wholly ineffectual as a law for the peace, order and good governance, and that a List of Electors prepared for General and Regional Elections under Section 5 of the Elections Laws (Amendment) Act can no longer be prepared on the basis of Electors resident in Guyana.
In laying the grounds for the case, Senior Counsel Forde told the Court 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.
Contextualizing the issue, the Senior Counsel explained that by an order pursuant to the Local Authorities Election Act, the Local Government Minister Nigel Dharamlall fixed March 13, 2023 for the conduct of Local Government Election.
It was noted that the order issued on October 20 was followed by another order, this time by the Elections Commission, fixing December 12, 2022 as Nomination Day. He said APNU has since submitted its symbol for use in those elections.
It was further explained that on November 23, 2022, the Commission issued another order under Section 5 (6) of the Election Laws Amendment Act for a “List of Electors to choose the members of any Local Democratic Organ (other than a Regional Democratic Council) or other local government authority” to be extracted from the Official List of Electors prepared under the Section and resident in the area of that local authority organ or local government authority.
However, the Senior Counsel submitted that the purported extraction of the List of Electors is a breach of the Local Authorities (Election) (Amendment) Act.
On behalf of his client, the Senior Counsel asked the Court to issue an Order setting aside the Order issued by the Elections Commission for the purpose of extracting a List of Electors for Local Government Elections on the ground that it is ultra vires and unlawful.
They are also seeking an order directing GECOM to compile a Register of Voters in accordance with Section 23 (3) of the Local Authorities (Elections) Act Cap 28:03 before conducting of any Local Government Elections in Guyana.
APNU+AFC has long expressed major concern over the compilation of the Voters’ List on the basis that it is bloated with dead people and thousands of Guyanese that have migrated.