Jamaican Conventions of the EAC and ECJ

DEFINITION OF CONVENTION

The word convention has several different meanings. It is, therefore, necessary to set out as clearly as possible the sense in which it is used as applied to the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

The word convention is commonly used to mean an event which is a formal assembly where people of similar political, religious, cultural or other interests meet for the furtherance of their common bond of affiliation. This is not the sense in which the word convention is being used here.

A second very common meaning of convention is a voluntary and explicit accord or agreement between two or more persons or entities with respect to basic principles, procedures, practices, behaviors, or understandings that they commit to following. The entities involved in such conventions may include Governments, professional bodies, political parties, religious bodies, sporting organisations, and other such groups.

The third meaning of convention is that of habitual practices in societies which are considered correct or proper or polite or civilized. Essentially these are codes of conduct and ways of behaving that have evolved our time and are well known to members of those societies but not necessarily to strangers. In this sense, conventions are like norms, mores, gentleman’s agreements and standard practice. The word convention is being used here in the sense of the second and third meanings defined above. They are not codified in laws or backed by constitutions. Often, they are voluntary extensions of laws, the spirit of laws and not their letters.

GENERAL DESCRIPTION OF THE CONVENTIONS OF THE EAC AND ECJ

The overall principle that has informed all Conventions of the EAC/ECJ is that the political party that forms the Government will not use its majority to impose its will and interests on electoral matters and in deciding on constituency boundaries. This overriding principle translates in different ways as they are practiced in conjunction with laws governing the electoral system and boundaries.

The reason and rationale for the creation of the Electoral Advisory Committee in 1979 were to remove the electoral machinery from the almost complete control of the political party in government. This would be accomplished through the establishment of an independent body which would include the representatives of opposition party and members of civil society. The control of the electoral machinery would no longer be a prize of victory at the polls, that is, no longer be part of the winner take all philosophy practiced in some jurisdictions. Put bluntly, the political party in power could not control the electoral machinery to perpetuate itself in government.

Conventions of the Electoral Advisory Committee and its successor the Electoral Commission of Jamaica are voluntary, explicit or implicit, agreements concerning electoral matters between the major political parties with respect to principles, procedures, and practices each will follow when in government and when in opposition. Some conventions were agreed between the parties at the time of the establishment of the EAC in 1979. Other conventions have evolved since 1979 as first the EAC and later the ECJ have encountered issues and responded with agreements on practices that would be followed going forward. These latter conventions have been articulated after the fact and have been refined upon reflection practice. They are not necessarily known to newcomers or outsiders.

The genius of the creators of the Electoral Advisory Committee in 1979 was the combination of structures, laws, and conventions that they initiated to guide and civilize the exercise of political power with respect to the electoral system and by extension to democratic governance of the country. While the structures of the electoral system are well known, and the laws are written and explicit, the same is not true of the conventions. Newcomers and outsiders are unlikely to be familiar with them.

 

National Broadcast on Residence Re-Verification – March 2006

Jamaica’s system of governance is based on representatives elected by voters in constituencies defined by geographical location. The Representation of the People Act, ROPA stipulates that electors must vote in the constituencies in which they are resident.   

In addition, there is the agreement that the number of constituencies into which Jamaica is divided is to be increased to an odd number. Accurate data is absolutely essential in the decision making with respect to where constituencies are to be added as well as how electoral boundaries are to be drawn. The principles determining constituency allocation to Parishes and the drawing of constituency boundaries, within the limits set by the Constitution of Jamaica, were recommended at a Retreat in June 2005, confirmed by the political parties and approved by the EAC. Continue reading

National Broadcast related to Nomination Day 2002

Tomorrow is Nomination Day. Election Day is set for October 16th. The EAC and the EOJ, working with the political parties and their leaders, have sought to overcome many of the weaknesses that existed in our electoral system. While the system is not perfect, we have accomplished the following:

 

Produced the largest and cleanest Voters List in the history of the country.

  • Settled the location of all polling stations based on agreed standards.
  • Mailed voters guide to electors advising them of the polling stations where they should vote.
  • Established a Web Site where persons can check if they are on the Voters List and, if they are, where to vote.
  • Distributed Voter ID Cards to every elector who was available to receive their card.
  • Recruited and trained a high calibre of Election Day Workers and had the Law amended to have Election Day Workers vote on the same day as the military and the police.
  • Instituted an additional means of identifying electors on Election Day.
  • Created a manual that has been distributed to every member of the Security Forces concerning the Law and their role in enforcing it on Election Day.
  • Created and distributed a similar manual for all Candidates.
  • Established the Election Centre to act as a clearinghouse and focal point of coordination and conflict resolution.
  • Worked closely with CAFFEE with respect to local observers of the elections.
  • Invited international observers both to vet the reforms we have put in place as well as to observe the elections.

Continue reading

National Broadcast related local government elections 2003

LOCAL GOVERNMENT ELECTIONS 2003

On June 19 Jamaicans go to the Polls to elect Local Government Representatives. These Local Government Elections will be historic from two perspectives. First, in the newly created Municipality of Portmore, we will have for the first time the direct election of the Mayor by the people of the Municipality. Municipalities are not entirely new in Jamaica, but the direct election of the Mayor is. In this regard, Jamaica is now following what is common practice in several parts of the world. Continue reading

Welcome Address at ECJ Function to Honour the EAC

WELCOME

Professor Errol Miller biography

Your Excellencies Professor Kenneth Hall and Mrs Rheima Hall, Leader of the Opposition Honourable Bruce Golding and Mrs Golding, Chief Justice the Honourable Lensley Wolfe, Dr the Honourable Peter Phillips representing the Prime Minister, and Mrs Phillips, Honourable Donald Buchannan and Mrs Buchannan, other Ministers of Government, Members of Parliament, Honourees of the Electoral Advisory Committee and invited guests, Ladies and Gentlemen all on behalf of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica it is my great pleasure and singular honour to welcome you to this function this evening.

Milestones are important in any journey, more so in the journey of a nation and a people. Marking particular milestones with ceremony and ritual is important not only to celebrate triumph over troubles, trials, and tribulation and to rejoice over the defeat of disappointments, despair, and disillusionment along the way but equally important to draw inspiration and muster the courage for the journey that still lay ahead. This evening marks a very important milestone in the journey of the Jamaican people and nation along the road of democratic governance in which the sovereign people hold their elected representatives accountable. Continue reading