COORDINATING AND MANAGING THE ELECTORAL PROCESS FROM NOMINATION DAY TO ELECTION DAY
THE ORIGINAL PROPOSAL
Currently, all stakeholders and actors in the electoral process operate with minimal or, at best, very modest interaction during the period between Nomination Day and Election Day. Accordingly, many matters that could be readily addressed are not dealt with leading to frustration on the part of those who perceive themselves to be aggrieved; the taking of unilateral action that aggravate and compound the situation; and the generation of anecdotes of electoral malpractices whose repetition undermine the integrity of the electoral process. While this lack of coordination may not be detrimental in circumstances in which there is a high degree of trust in the electoral process, between the stakeholders and actors, it represents a serious deficiency in circumstances where a high degree of trust is absent, as is currently the case in Jamaica.
The current stakeholders and actors in the electoral process in Jamaica include the Electoral Office, the political parties, independent candidates, the military, the police, CAFEE, international observers, the media and electors. What limited coordination and interaction that exist, of the current stakeholders and actors, are almost totally focused on Election Day.
THE ELECTION CENTRE
The overall goal for establishing the Election Centre is to substantially enhance and improve the level of trust and confidence in the electoral process and thereby promote peaceful, free and fair elections resulting in the strengthening of the democratic traditions of Jamaica.
The immediate and main objectives are to establish
- A focal point of coordination, communication and collaboration between the stakeholders and actors in the electoral process.
- A problem solving capacity with respect to complaints made concerning the actions of one or more stakeholders by others involved in the electoral process.
- A reliable source of authentic information to the general public, the media and to electors.
- A forum in which the Selected Members of the EAC and the Director of Elections can make judgments with respect to issues that require urgent resolution and also concerning the actions, or lack of them, on the part of stakeholders and actors in the electoral process.
The membership of the Election Centre will comprise of trusted and highly placed and members in the hierarchy and/or command structure of stakeholder and actor organizations. The composition could be as follows:
- The Director of Elections or his nominee from the Electoral Office of Jamaica.
- Three Selected Members of the Electoral Advisory Committee.
- One representative each of the political parties satisfying the Representative of the Peoples Act criteria related to the appointment of scrutineers.
- One representative from the Jamaica Constabulary Force.
- One representative from the Jamaica Defence Force.
- One Representative from CAFEE
- One Representative from the International Observer Organisations.
- One representative selected by independent candidates.
Between Nomination Day and the day prior to Election Day, the Forum of the Centre will chaired by a Selected Member of the EAC or the Director of Elections. On Election Day the Director of Elections will chair the Forum of the Centre.
The Election Centre will commence operations on Nomination Day and will operate daily up to ten working days after Election Day. Given that the ROPA specifies a minimum of 16 and a maximum of 23 days between Nomination Day and Election Day, the Election Centre will provide public services for three to five weeks.
The Election Centre will operate daily through the following processes:
- A Forum to address complaints from and issues raised by stakeholders and actors.
- A rapid response mechanism whereby each representative of the Centre will act in a coordinated manner with respect to the decisions made by the Forum with respect to complaints and issues received.
- A database that keeps track of complaints, their sources, the decisions made, the actions taken and the results of such action.
- A daily briefing of the Press and Media with respect to relevant matters and at which the Press and Media can raise matters related to their own news gathering efforts.
- An information dissemination capacity that provides electors with authentic and accurate information concerning their voter registration, polling locations and other relevant matters, and the public and the press and media with election results on Election Night.
In order to effectively carried out its functions and operations the Centre will need appropriate office space; computers equipped with databases, an electronic map of Jamaica and GIS software; and electronic whiteboard; banks of telephones including regular and cellular phones from at least two companies; a web-site that is updated daily; and support staff with the competence to provide the services required.
Planning and Preparation
Bearing in mind that the Prime Minister has confirmed 2002 as the year for General Elections, and the setting of the exact is outside the control of the EAC/EOJ, it is critical that the necessary planning and preparations be made for the Centre to become functional by March. It is therefore imperative for the EAC to immediately inform the stakeholders and actors of the intention to establish the Election Centre and invite their participation in it and for the EOJ, assisted by a Consultant in Logistics, to make the necessary arrangements for the establishment of the infrastructure to support the Centre.
January 23, 2002.
THE FIRST ELECTION CENTRE ESTABLISHED:
THE PARLIAMENTARY ELECTIONS OF OCTOBER 16, 2002
Following this discussion of the idea of an Election Centre within the EAC and discussions with all the proposed stakeholders and actors the following decisions were made by the EAC:
- The Election Centre would be established with the goals and objectives proposed.
- The Selected Members of the EAC would not be part of the Election Centre because from Nomination Day to three Months following Election Day they are part of the Constituted Authority with powers to halt elections on Election Day in a polling division, electoral division or constituencies as prescribed in the Representation of the People Act and to receive petitions concerning alleged violations of the electoral process. Further, the responsibility for the conduct of elections is that of the Director of Elections.
- The physical building that houses the Election Centre, would include a room for the meeting of the Constituted Authority.
- On Election Day, the Director would make two reports to the Constituted Authority concerning the turn-out of electors, so as to facilitate the work of the Constituted Authority.
- The Political Ombudsman would be a member of the Election Centre and chair any session dealing with political matters, while the Director of Elections would chair sessions dealing with electoral matters.
- In addition to the Director of Elections and the Political Ombudsman, membership of the Election Centre would comprise of one representative each named by political parties recognised by the EAC; one representative of the Security Forces named by the Commissioner of Police; one representative named by CAFFE; one representative named by the Churches; and one representative named by the International Observer groups.
- The Election Centre would meet first on Nomination Day and daily thereafter and hold daily Press Conferences if needed and necessary at a prescribed hour.
- The work of the Election Centre would be supported by an Election Data Managing System staffed and operated by the Electoral Office.
Since 2002 the Election Centre has been convened and operated for each Parliamentary and Local Government Election as well as for all by-elections: Parliamentary and Local Government. The Churches first took up the place offered in the Election Centre for Parliamentary Elections of December 2011. This was following the formation of the Umbrella Group of Church which brought together all Christian Denominations in Jamaica.
The practice has evolved where political parties, recognized by the EAC/ECJ, have named one of their Nominated Members to serve as their representative on the Election Centre.
Since 2002 Election Centres have functioned in the manner intended. They have engaged in problem solving in small and not so small issues. For example, when two or more candidates have applied to the Police for meetings in the same venues on the same days almost any decision made invariably results in charges of bias. However, when such problematic applications are brought to the Election Centre is possible for the contending applications to be assessed on a first come first serve basis with the contending candidates being represented. Like the Centres have been able to issue authentic information about matters which otherwise would be sources of rumours.