Meetings with Candidates for General Elections 2011 and selected commissioners

ELECTIONS AND DEMOCRATIC GOVERNANCE

The people are sovereign. The people elect their representatives to form the Government. Elections are the mechanism through the people decides if representatives previously elected should continue in office or be replaced. This system is the essence of the democratic form of government and governance.

It is a blot upon the sovereign people, and upon democracy, if those who vie to be elected engage in illegal, dishonest or corrupt practices.  It is to the discredit of all politicians when they seek to advance their cause mainly through accusations and allegations of incompetence, ineptitude and corruption of their competitors and make baseless and empty promises that they cannot keep. The defamation of each other and meaningless promises only serve to foster disenchantment and disillusionment among the sovereign people.

The certain way of maintaining the integrity of the elected representatives of the people is to ensure that they do not control or manipulate the process by which they are elected. Free and Fair Elections are the bedrock of democracy. They are the means of ensuring that the elected representatives have the mandate and authority to govern the sovereign people.

THE COLONIAL LEGACY

The colonial legacy of 280 years of elections that were conducted outside of borders of democracy, because of the limited franchise, was the winner-take-all system where those in power legislated the rules governing elections, set the boundaries for constituencies and controlled the conduct of the poll, all to their advantage.

Following adult suffrage and representative government, the elected representatives of the people continued the colonial legacy with tutelage from the colonial overlords. For the first 17 years of independence, the electoral system was practiced colonial style.

THE TRANSFORMATION OF THE ELECTORAL SYSTEM SINCE 1979

The creation of the Electoral Advisory Committee in 1979, succeeded by the Electoral Commission, 2006, replaced the winner-take-all system with a tripartite structure advising the Parliament with respect to laws governing elections and the electoral system and the number of constituencies into which Jamaica is divided and their boundaries and having sole responsibility for the conduct of elections. The cornerstone of this new system, created since Independence, is the Convention that the Party that forms the Government will not use its majority in Parliament to secure an advantage in the electoral system. This essence of this new system is that the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition are both represented equally in the Electoral Commission and that four Selected Commissioners, jointly agreed on by both, have the final say where differences arise. Further, recommendations to Parliament unanimously agreed by all Commissioners are approved by Parliament without change.

The accomplishments of this new participatory system since 1979 are as follows:

  1. The number of Constituency and electoral divisions into which Jamaica is divided is determined by a broad-based participatory and consultative process involving political representatives in all Parishes and including an objective mechanism of conflict resolution.
  2. Continuing Registration: persons over the age of 18 years can apply to be registered on any work day during the year instead of waiting on a house to house registration conducted every five years or so.
  3. Technology is applied to the Voter Registration Process such that every elector is cross matched against every other elector before they are placed on the Voters List, which therefore has no duplications. Every Elector is only on the Voters List once. Jamaica is the world leader in elector identification.
  4. The Voters’ List, published twice per year at intervals of six months, is constructed through a consultative, participatory and interactive process beginning with visits by scrutineers appointed by the major political parties and monthly meetings with political representatives.
  5. Polling Stations locations are agreed for two-year period and agreements are reached as a result of a consultative process involving political representatives and Returning Officers and an objective system of conflict resolution.
  6. The Director of Elections, the Chief Electoral Officer, conducts the election without any fear that politicians can interfere with his legal actions, without incurring some penalty.
  7. The use of the Electronic Identification and Ballot Issuing System is such polling stations as determined by the Director of Elections.
  8. The use of Specialist Election Day Workers deployed at the discretion of the Director of Elections.
  9. The use of Picture Version of the Voters List inside Polling Stations by Indoor Agents of all Candidates.
  10. The Constituted Authority that can halt elections on Election Day if polling stations are not opened after five hours or if there is any Act of God that disrupts the poll.
  11. The Election Court that can void an election in any constituency based on an application by the Constituted Authority of behalf of any Candidate, or by the Constituted Authority on its own motion.
  12. The observation of elections by local and international observers.

 

As a result of these measures the following practices now belong to history

  • Gerrymandering of constituency and electoral boundaries to the advantage of the party in government
  • The stuffing of ballot boxes.
  • The voting out of polling stations: over voting: more than one hundred per cent of the electors voting in any polling station.
  • The stealing of ballot boxes.
  • Impersonation of electors, including persons voting in the name of dead electors.
  • Electors voting more than once

INTERNATIONAL RECOGNITION OF JAMAICA’S ELECTORAL SYSTEM

The transformation of our electoral system has gained regional and international recognition. The Electoral Commission now assist countries in the Caribbean, Commonwealth and elsewhere with the electoral process.

THE BALLOT IS SECRET

  1. Electors mark their ballots behind a screen, which does not allow anybody to see where they have marked their ballot.
  2. Electors must return the ballot folded so that their mark is not exposed.
  3. The ballot will be taken away from any elector exposing their mark. Open voting by electors in not allowed
  4. Presiding Officers cannot expose the ballot of any elector or require the elector to vote openly. This would be a criminal offence.
  5. Once the counterfoil is removed from the ballot by the Presiding Officer and placed into the ballot box, that ballot cannot be traced back to the elector.
  6. The use of Cell-phone, digital cameras and other image capturing devices in polling station is banned. The ballot on any elector caught using such a device will be confiscated and destroyed and the elector will be charged with a criminal offence.

ADMINISTRATIVE MATTERS

  1. The Election Centre began operating on Nomination Day. The role of the Election Centre is to coordinate activities, resolve problems, engage in conflict resolution and issue authentic information to the Press and Media. A Ministers Fraternal is being set up by the Umbrella Group of Churches in each constituency and should be the first line of conflict resolution in constituencies.  
  2. On Nomination Day all Candidates were given the November 30, 2011 Voters List for their constituency. By November 20 all candidates will be given the Police Voters List, the Military Voters List, the Election Day Workers Voters List and the Civilian Voters List. All Candidates are expected to check for themselves that the four Lists add up exactly to the Official List given on Nomination Day.

 

  1. Every elector is only on the Voters List once. Every elector will only have one opportunity to vote, that is, on the day specified for that category of electors to vote.

 

 

  • The Police, Military and Election Day Workers will vote on December 22, 2011. Election Political Parties have been requested to appoint Indoor Agents for the polling locations for the vote on this day.

 

 

  1. The ballots of the Police, Military and Election Day Workers are placed in envelopes in the presents of the Presiding Officers. After the Close of Poll they are transported to the headquarters of the Electoral Office. They are they sorted into constituencies. Candidates/political parties are asked to appoint agents to accompany the transportation of the Ballots and observe their sorting.

 

  1. The Electoral Office will remind all who are on the Election Day Workers Voters List where they are to vote. Any Election Day Worker who does not vote on Dec 22, 2011 will not have any other opportunity to vote.

 

  1. Civilians will vote on December 29, 2011.

 

  1. Any elector exposing their ballot will have that ballot confiscated and destroyed by the Presiding Officer. After the second attempt to Vote Openly the Elector will not be issued with a third ballot under any circumstances. The Law requires that that Electors be arrested and charged after the second attempt to Vote Openly.

 

  1. Candidates must make their Transfer Requests no later than 72 hours before the opening of the Polling.

 

  1. Transfer requests will not be granted for Indoor Agents to vote elsewhere within the same polling Stations.

 

  1. Any Change of Polling Station due to premises being unavailable must be settled with the same procedure as obtains for the general settlement of polling stations.

 

 

  • [NEED TO QUOTE ROPA WITH RESPECT TO A CANDIDATE DYING BETWEEN NOMINATION AND ELECTION DAY]

 

 

 

  • There is no requirement for Candidates to register vehicles with the Police designated as election vehicles.

 

 

 

  • The Director is responsible for the Security of the Elections and works closely with the Security Forces to ensure the same. While suggestions are welcome from all concerned, all security measures that will be put in place will not be shared with Political Representatives and the general public.

 

 

 

  • Dr. Thompson needs information related to Mr. Kellier’s charges about malpractices in 2007, which were made in his Nomination Day address. {Mr Simpson}