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Guyana elections chair criticized for contradictory remarks on digital fingerprinting

Guyana elections chair criticized for contradictory remarks on digital fingerprinting

A former member of the Guyana Election Commission (GECOM) Vincent Alexander has described as “ominous” recent comments from the chairperson of the election agency, Claudette Singh, suggesting she is changing her position on a planned digital fingerprinting project for biometric voter registration and verification.

Guyana currently uses a manual fingerprinting system for voter registration and identification.

In a letter to the editor of Starbroek News, Alexander said pronouncements by the GECOM Chair during a recent press conference following the 2023 local government elections contrast with her earlier position when the project was first discussed by the Commission.

GECOM had also reached a decision to provide for the purchase of the needed equipment to capture fingerprints electronically in the 2023 budget estimates, Alexander claims.

“Shockingly, the PPP/C-nominated Commissioners reneged on the prior decision and with the support of the Chairperson voted down the proposed purchase of the equipment and consequentially the introduction of the electronic capture of fingerprints,” writes Alexander.

He said that there is no need for any legislative measures on the introduction of the digital fingerprinting system as the GECOM chair is trying to now claim. This he argues is because the National Registration Act provides for GECOM to capture fingerprints and to determine the manner in which they are captured.

“The Chairperson’s apparent backpedalling on a prior decision and her own articulated ruling is ominous. Her contention that the refusal of anyone to participate in the electronic capture ‘would disenfranchise voters’ is disingenuous,” said Alexander, who also labelled the attitude of the GECOM chair as inimical to efforts aimed at advancing electoral reforms.

Emphasizing the need for a digital fingerprinting system, Alexander said: “The reality is that the manual capture of fingerprints which are then converted to electronic images results in a number of prints that are not suitable for unique identification and cross matching. Direct, electronic capture will eliminate that problem.”

In his letter, Alexander also reacted to the chairperson’s remarks with regard to the use of electronic biometric identification at polling stations, which he claims, also contradict her earlier position on the issue.

Alexander has been a fervent proponent of the use of biometrics as a way of enhancing the credibility and fairness of elections in Guyana, supporting calls from opposition political parties to introduce the technology.

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