First with the EAC, and latterly with the ECJ, the practice emerged whereby disagreements and disputes between political parties were referred to the Selected Members for resolution. Over time the convention development whereby Nominated Members accepted the unanimous decisions of the Selected Members as final, thus making it a unanimous decision on the matters referred for resolution. Two difference conventions and procedures evolved depending on the nature of the dispute. The procedures for differences related to electoral reform were separated from disputes related to constituency boundaries which occurred in periods of General Reviews.
Convention for Resolving Disagreements on Electoral Reform
The procedure for resolving differences with respect to proposed reforms of the electoral system is that after wide consultation with stakeholders and actors in the political arena in Jamaica, civil society organisations and international partners are as follows:
- The Selected Members produce a First Draft Report with Options for Reform.
- This first Draft with Options Report is then submitted to the two major political parties for their consideration and written responses through the Nominated Members of the Commission.
- From the written responses received from the two major political parties, the Selected Members prepare a second draft noting all areas of agreement and disagreement. This Second Draft is then debated by the Commission with a view to reaching agreement in all areas.
- The Selected Members then prepare a Draft Final Report, taking account of the discussion and agreements of the Commission. This Draft Final Report is submitted to the political parties through Nominated Members. This Draft Final Report is shared and discussed with minor political parties and stakeholders and other civil society organisations that participated in discussing the reforms initially.
- From the feedback received from all sources, Selected Members prepare the Final Report that is agreed by all Commissioners and submitted to Parliament with the unanimous recommendations for reforms of the electoral system.
The Convention for Altering Constituency Boundaries
The procedure for changing constituency boundaries during periods of General Review and in circumstances where the lower or upper limits are breached in applying the formulae prescribed in the Constitution is a follows:
- In each Parish in which there is a breach of the lower or upper limits for constituencies a Boundaries Forum and a Parish Boundaries, Advisory Committee is established. The Parish Boundaries Forum consists of the Members of Parliaments and Councilors, Cake-takers of Constituencies and Electoral Divisions of the parties recognized by the Electoral Commission and the Political Liaison Officers that are appointed to the Monthly Meetings of Political Representatives in the respective constituencies of the Parish. The parish Boundaries Advisory Committee consists of eleven members. Five members nominated from each major party from those listed about plus a Returning Officer of the Parish named by the Director of Election, who shall be its chairman. The Boundaries Advisory Committee of the Parish is mandated to propose boundaries for constituencies within that parish through a process of consultation with Forum.
- The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) will facilitate the operation of Parish Boundaries Advisory Committees by providing access to electronic maps of polling divisions, electoral divisions and of constituencies as well as relevant electoral data from voters’ lists.
- Communities affected by proposed boundary changes should be afforded an opportunity to make oral and written submissions to the Parish Boundaries Advisory Committee.
- Signed recommendations from the Parish Boundaries Advisory Committee must be submitted to the Commission.
- Where there is unanimous agreement with respect to all boundary changes proposed by the Boundaries Advisory Committee of a Parish, and these boundaries are accepted by the General Secretaries of both major political parties, such proposed boundaries changes will be accepted by the Electoral Commission and submitted in its recommendations to the Standing Committee on Boundary Committee of Parliament.
- Where agreements are not reached with respect to boundaries by the Parish Boundaries Advisory Committee, the Committee must report their disagreements to the Director of Elections.
- The Director must submit disputed boundaries the Nominated Members of Commission and seek to resolve the disputes. Where the Director of Elections and Nominated Members reach agreement on the disputed boundaries, their recommendations must be submitted to the Electoral Commission which will accept their recommendations and include them in its recommendations to the Standing Committee on Boundary of Parliament.
- Where agreements are not reached by the Nominated Members and the Director the disputed boundaries must be submitted to the Selected Members.
- The Selected Commissioners will require the Director of Elections and the Returning Officers of the Parish to conduct a full and forensic analysis of constituency boundaries of the Parish and to make recommendations strictly consistent with Constitution, guidelines of fairness, contiguity, topography and common sense.
- The Selected Commission will have formal hearings at which each Party is allowed to make written and oral presentations for no more than one hour and be allowed no more than half an hour each for rebuttal.
- The Selected Commissioners will then make their decisions, giving written reasons for those decisions.
- The decisions of the Selected Commissioners will be accepted as final and will be submitted in the recommendations to the Standing Committee on Boundaries of Parliament.