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Election director says educate the voters to decrease apathy

Published:Saturday | May 30, 2015 | 12:00 AM


With local government elections on the horizon, Orrette Fisher, Jamaica's director of elections, says voter education and a strong emphasis on civics in schools could help to reduce apathy and improve voter turnout in future elections.

In an interview with The Gleaner at the 10th International Electoral Affairs Symposium in Montego Bay on Thursday, Fisher said that while voter education was something that was being pursued, much more could be done to ensure that citizens are aware of their rights and responsibilities towards the system.

"I believe that there is more that we can do on the matter of voter education to reduce the apathy, especially among the young people, and I welcome the re-introduction of civics into the school curriculum as it is important to have the people, starting at the school level, aware of their responsibility and feel some affinity for their country and its governance," said Fisher.

"It would also spur love of country, sensitise people, and incite them to take care of the infrastructure, which belongs to them, and increase the level of responsibility and loyalty towards the country as Jamaicans," he said.

target youth

The director of elections further said that the targeting of youth is a good measure as they have been expressing the greatest level of disinterest in the political system, governance, and social responsibility.

"I think that when the youngsters are aware of their responsibility, as well as what it takes to vote, and are able to put away that fear that some people might have, it will make a difference. When there is that uncertainty, people may not turn out, and when they are not cognisant of their responsibility, they will not turn out," added Fisher.

When he was quizzed about the feasibility of introducing compulsory voting in Jamaica, Fisher said that while it is being done successfully in countries like Australia, Jamaica is not yet ready for it.

"There are a number of countries with compulsory voting, but I don't think that that is something that Jamaica is ready for at this time, and it goes back to voter education and a change in the whole cultural dynamics of Jamaica," said Fisher. "People have to be schooled in this; it cannot be foisted upon them."

- B.F.