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$10,000 for my 'X' - Almost 13% of Jamaicans say they would sell their vote

Published:Sunday | February 14, 2016 | 2:00 AMArthur Hall
An elector shows that he has voted in the 2011 general election.

Political candidates who might want to flout the law and pay persons to vote for them come February 25 will have to fork out a low of $1,000 to more than $10,000 for each vote.

The latest Gleaner-commissioned Bill Johnson poll has found that 13 per cent of the electorate would be willing to sell their votes to the highest bidder, but most want more than the $500 which it is rumoured sellers demanded not so long ago.

"Of those who said they would be willing to sell their votes, 56 persons, or six per cent of the total sample, said they would accept $10,000 to mark their 'X'," Johnson told The Sunday Gleaner.

"What is also interesting is that six per cent of those who say they plan to vote for the People's National Party (PNP) said they would sell their votes, and 13 per cent of those who said they plan to vote for the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) would also sell their votes.

"Of those who are undecided, 16 per cent said they would sell their votes, while 20 per cent of those who said they would not vote indicated that they would be tempted to enter the polling booth if they were paid," added Johnson.

He noted that the survey team did not check if persons who said they would be willing to sell their votes were aware that this was illegal and they could face stiff punishment.

 

ILLEGAL PRACTICE

 

Under the Representation of the People Act, which governs Jamaica's electoral system, the buying and selling of votes is illegal and can be punished with a fine of up to $80,000 and imprisonment - with a provision to bar people from public office or voting thereafter.

But this has not prevented the buying and selling of votes, which anecdotal evidence suggests has been a feature of Jamaica's electoral system for some time.

A recent study by social anthropologist Dr Herbert Gayle found that while 48 per cent of the persons on the latest voters' list said they plan to stay away from the voting booths on election day, almost one in 10 said they would be willing to sell their votes.

"Three per cent of respondents [who are undecided] stated explicitly that they would vote for any candidate who was willing to purchase their votes with cash or kind," Gayle found in a study on why Jamaicans vote and the implications for which party will win the 2016 general election.

The latest Johnson poll was conducted islandwide from February 4 to 7 and covered 1,200 respondents, with a sampling error of plus or minus three per cent.

arthur.hall@gleanerjm.com