Tue | Jan 22, 2019

Election date to keep hundreds from poll

Published:Friday | November 7, 2014 | 12:00 AM

THE Central Westmoreland by-election, set for December 1, will be held on the May 31 voters list, possibly excluding hundreds of persons from participating in those polls.

A total of 39,367 persons are on the list, which may have swelled beyond 40,000 if Nomination Day was after November 30, the day the list is updated.

The voters' list is printed every six months, May 31 and November 30 of each year.

Orrette Fisher, director of elections, explained that because two months are required to process registration information before the publication of a new list, persons registered between April 1 and September 30 were the only ones that would have been included on the November 30 voters' list.

With the Representation of the People Act prohibiting the publication of lists between nomination date and election date, those persons will not get a chance to vote.

Just over 53 per cent, or 20,216, of the 37,543 persons in the list voted in the 2011 general election which Roger Clarke won with 11,564 votes over Marlene Malahoo Forte, who got 8,522 votes.

Nomination Day will be next Wednesday, and the People's National Party (PNP) is expected to nominate Dwayne Vaz to continue the work of the late Roger Clarke, whose sudden death in August created the vacancy.

Contacted by The Gleaner, Andrew Holness, whose Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) will be fielding Faye Jacobs, told The Gleaner yesterday that he thinks Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller should have waited for the November 30 voters' list to allow all those who are registered to vote.

not promoting democracy

"I waited on the new list on that principle," said Holness, who was criticised within his party for delaying the 2011 polls until after the November 30 list was published.

"The date of an election is in the hands of the prime minister. She has a duty to promote the democracy of our country and that means she has a duty to ensure that everyone who registered to vote gets a chance," Holness said.

Having called the 2011 election on the November 30 voters' list, the number of electors in Central Westmoreland increased from 36,773 on the May 31 list to 37,543.

Nationally, an additional 35,971 were able to vote as a result of the election being held on the November 30 list as opposed to May 31.

The JLP leader said his party has given special focus to Westmoreland.

"We detect a growing sense of frustration in the parish with PNP representation. The by-election offers an opportunity for electors to carefully consider traditional allegiances versus the prospects of progress with change," Holness said.

Following a 2:1 defeat in the 2011 general election, the JLP commissioned a strategic review to look at, among other things, why Westmoreland has consistently voted for the PNP since 1989.

Holness declined to state the party's strategy for the by-election, but made it clear that the party was targeting young and uncommitted voters to take Jacobs home.

"I would appeal to the young people of the parish and especially the youth of Central Westmoreland, who are less tied down by tradition and more prospecting of the future, to be the leaders of the change in their constituencies. I appeal also to the great number of frustrated and turned-off voters. Not voting does not change the things you do not like. It is the surest way to maintain the status quo. The opportunity to change is now," the JLP leader said.

an unfortunate fact

But Paul Burke, the general secretary of the PNP, said it was unfortunate that people who have registered may not get the chance to vote.

"People are always going to be excluded, it is unfortunate. It takes eight months for each new set of voters to come on the list because, after the six-month period, there is a further two months for the verification and the production of that list," Burke told The Gleaner.

"There will always be a backlog of persons on a list who will not be able to vote whenever you call an election," he added.

Burke noted that, at the time of the election, the constituency would have been without representation for all of September, October and November, and that residents have not been able to benefit from programmes through the Constituency Development Fund (CDF) and a $2 million allocation to fight the chikungunya virus.