ELECTION MANAGEMENT INFORMATION SYSTEM

 

Jamaica has a unique complement of legally established bodies which have differing responsibilities for matters pertaining to the electoral system and elections. These are:

  1. The electoral management body, the Electoral Advisory Committee (EAC) established in 1979 and which was replaced by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) in 2006. The principal functions of this body are the ongoing management and policy advice on electoral matters; the conduct of elections; and advice to the Standing Committee of Boundaries of the Parliament with respect to the number of constituencies into which Jamaica is divided and their boundaries as prescribed by the Constitution. The EAC/ECJ has a unique tripartite structure comprised of an equal number of members nominated by the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition respectively and a number of selected members, drawn from civil society, jointly agreed on by both the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition. The Selected Members hold the chairmanship of the body.
  2. The Director of Elections, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the EAC/ECJ, is also the Chief Elections Officer who is mandated specifically by Representation of the People ACT to be directly responsible for the conduct of all aspects of elections and referenda.
  3. Political Ombudsman who exercises oversight of the conduct of Members of Parliament and other political representatives in relation to an Agreed Code of Conduct.
  4. The Constituted Authority which is chaired by a retired judge of the High Courts, a member named by the Privy Council and the Selected Members of the EAC/ECJ. The Constituted Authority comes into being on Nomination Day and is appointed for six months. The Constituted Authority has the power on Election Day to halt any election in a polling station, Electoral Division or Constituency if polling stations are not opened by a specified time or if there is any occurrence of an Act of God which prevents a certain minimum proportion of electors from voting. The Constituted Authority can recommend to the Elections Court that an election in a polling station, electoral Division or Constituency should be voided and re-run within a three month period if certainly specified breaches occurred.
  5. The Election Court empaneled by the Chief Justice, consists of the latter as chairman and two Justices of the Court of Appeal. The Elections Court considers submissions from the Constituted Authority and has the power to void elections and order that they are run again on dates set by the Constituted Authority.

When a General Election is called by the Prime Minister who announces Nomination Day and Election Day, which must be at least 16 days and at most 23 days apart, working relations and responsibilities becomes as follows:

  1. The Director of Elections takes on all responsibilities and preparation for Nomination Day and Election Day and the conduct of both the nomination of candidates and the conduct of the poll.
  2. The Political Ombudsmen assumes responsibility for statements of candidates and their agents, their conduct, billboards, and other such political matters.
  3. The Nominated Members of the EAC/ECJ become fully integrated with the political parties of the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition.
  4. The Election Centre becomes the official space for continued interactions between political parties, the security forces, local and international observers, civil society organisations, the Director of Elections and the Political Ombudsman. {Details of the Election Centre are described in other Innovation}.
  5. The Selected Members become members of the Constituted Authority from Nomination Day and for six months thereafter and ought not to take part in any decision making on any election matter bearing in mind the functions and powers of the Constituted Authority.
  6. The Election Court is empaneled and awaits submissions, if any, from the Constituted Authority.

In the final analysis, the responsibilities and functions of all five legal entities, as well as the general interest of the public, are enhanced by reliable data, readily available and easily accessible in a time-sensitive manner. The EAC, therefore, decided to establish the infrastructure and commission the development of an Election Management Information System (EMIS) that would provide reliable data, readily available and easily accessible on a time-sensitive basis relative to all entities. The infrastructure that was created consisted of cellphones from two  distributed to key personnel in each constituency; a suitably staffed data-entry facility in all sixty constituencies; channelized telephones lines from each data entry facility to a control centre in the Headquarters of the EOJ; channelized telephones lines between the EOJ Control Room and the Election Center; an EAC website and backend connectivity outlets to local media organisations desiring direct access to election information.

The main features of the Election Management Information System (EMIS), inclusive of database and storage, which was commission included the following:

  • Recording and storing all political meetings, marches, motorcades and any other politically related events occurring in each constituency on a daily basis from Nomination Day to Election Day.
  • Recording and storing, daily, incidents and occurrences of a political nature taking place in each constituency from to Nomination Day to Election Day.
  • The time of opening continued operations and time of closure of all polling stations on Election Day.
  • Recording and reporting voter turn-out in each constituency at 12.00 noon, that is, five hours after the prescribed opening of polling stations and also the reporting of voter turn-out at 3.00 pm that is two hours before the prescribed time for the closing of polling stations.
  • The recording and immediate transmission to the EAC Control Centre, Election Centre and media companies, that had contracted to receive these data, votes counted at each polling station as declared by the signed Statement of Poll at each polling station in each constituency. The only filter on this transmission of voting data was withholding the count of the last two boxes and the final count in each constituency since the Representation of the People Act required that the Returning Officer had to count all ballots cast in a constituency and then declare the winner of each seat. The reporting of the ballots cast from the signed Statements of Poll was a much faster process than the transmission of ballot boxes to Counting Centres, the Counting of all ballots by Returning Officers and the declaration of the Member of Parliament by Returning Officers.

The two most dramatic and permanent effects of the use of the Election Management Information System manifest from the General Elections of October 2002 was the change in the direction of relation between the Director of Elections and supporting staff at the EOJ headquarters and Presiding Officers and Supervisors in constituencies with respect to the opening of Polling Stations and speed with which election results were known by the public. Previously the Director and supporting EOJ staff at the Headquarters received reports that particular polling stations had not opened. Calls had to be made to Presiding Officers and Supervisor to find out why particular stations were not opened. With the use of the EMIS, from 7.00 am onwards, each polling when it was reported as opened became a point of light on the Electronic Map of the country. By scanning these map polling stations that had not opened could be immediately identified and calls could be made to Presiding Officers of those stations to give account for the reasons that their stations had not opened allowing for corrective actions, if needed, to be taken in minutes and not hours. The results were that almost all polling stations were opened by 8.00 am, which represented a considerable improvement over the past.

The vast majority of polling stations closed at 5.00 pm. The Preliminary Results of the elections were known before 9.00 pm. One major television Media Company decided to continue with the system that it had used to propel it to the most-watched network on Election nights past. One of the newer television companies contracted the services provided by the EMIS. By about 7.30 pm the major Media Company with its long-standing reputation had lost most of its viewing audience to its new competitor. At the Election Centre when representatives of the foreign media realized that the information that they were watching on the Big Screen was being transmitted in real-time and that the information was available on computers in the Offices that they had been assigned they all departed to their offices. Later these representatives heaped praise on the EAC/EOJ for the efficiency, speed and advanced features of the EMIS.

 

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