The Guyana Elections Commission (GECOM) has been focused and resolute in preparations for the Local Government Elections. The Local Authorities (Elections) Law stipulates clearly what GECOM is responsible for, that is, the conduct of elections. This encompasses Voter Registration, the compilation of the Official Voters’ List, the procurement, production and management of Ballot Sheets and other sensitive and non- sensitive material for Elections, the management of Polls and E- day staff and the declaration of results.
Notwithstanding the above and its legally based mandate, GECOM has proactively and actively engaged itself in Civic Voter Education undertakings since the last quarter, shortly after the May 2015 General and Regional Elections. Yet we are daily confronted by the accusations of those who will not recognize our efforts, but even unabashedly posture that they are doing GECOM’s work. The fact is that we are doing their work, since many of the candidates seem to have abrogated their responsibilities. After all, those who are making the negative and deleterious comments about GECOM, are the ones who want to be elected.
If the turnout was lower than expected, it is not because GECOM did not offer education to the voting public, but it may be because the candidates did not do enough work on their own behalf. Or it could be that the voters are sick and tired of the posturing and the blame throwing, not lastly at one another.
There are surely several other elements and considerations which can be factored into the debate about the level of turnout.
Below, you will find a synopsis of GECOM’s activities pertaining to Civic and Voter Education:
1. Public Announcement messages on the various aspects of the Electoral Process were conceptualized, produced and disseminated. Nine skit types and nine narratives, with the sign language component on Television, for the benefit of the hearing impaired, were produced and aired on radio and television stations.
2. One hundred thousand Flyers and brochures on Local Government Elections were produced and distributed at grass root levels via all Registration Offices, Political Parties and Stakeholders..
3. Interactive public engagements were held within all of the 71 Local Authority Areas. The schedules for these meetings were publicized in the print media and via Public Address systems and fliers were distributed within the respective communities.
4. Public engagements were held with potential contestants in the run-up to the deadline for the submission of application, for approval of symbols and requirements for lists submission on Nomination Day, etc.
5. Weekly panel discussion on Local Government Elections, with a call-in feature on NCN. Copies of this programme were shown on television stations in Regions where NCN broadcasts do not reach.
6. Production and distribution of a 100,000 copies of Fliers about “No Contest Areas” and the three different types of ballots.
7. Weekly full page, half page and quarter page advertisements were offered to the public in the four daily Newspapers with information on the Local Government Elections process. These advertisements included information on Proxy Applications, illustrations of the Voting Process, Voting requirements, etc.
8. Invitations to discussions on LGE facilitated by GECOM were dispatched to 96 Civil Society Organizations across the coastland. These organizations were required to invite their respective constituencies to these forums for interactions.
9. Meetings were arranged in Local Authority Areas & Constituencies where there were to be no elections, in order to advise electors that particular process.
10. Hotlines had been established and are adequately publicized.
11. Pertinent information is published continuously on the GECOM website.
12. GECOM participated meaningfully at Public Events e.g. Essequibo Night & Business Expo.
13. Ballot Officers Meeting were conducted with ranks at strategic Disciplined Forces locations, including the Mazaruni Prison.
14. “ASK GECOM STREET MARKETING CAMPAIGN”, which included Pop Up Booths around the country and a mini caravan sharing information on LGE, were executed.
15. Numerous appearances on TV talk shows.
16. Installation of LAA and Constituency Billboards.
17. “Below the Line Text Messaging” on LGE via GTT and Digicel.
18. Scroll Advertisements and messages on Television Stations.
GECOM also acknowledges the organisations that were actively involved in the awareness and the dissemination of information on the Local Government Elections. These include Merundoi Inc. Guyana, The Guyana National Youth Council and Youth Challenge Guyana.
Never in the history of Civic and Voter Education in Guyana, has so much positive, result- yielding effort been made. We therefore, demand to know, instead of nattering negativities, what the complainers would have done more and better. GECOM carried the Voters to the proverbial water; it was up to the candidates to encourage them to drink.