Thu | Sep 21, 2017

Dead voters still haunt electoral process

Published:Thursday | September 22, 2016 | 9:00 AMEdmond Campbell
Director of Elections Orrette Fisher

With 108 per cent of seniors aged 65 years and over enumerated, representing eight percentage points more than that population cohort as recorded by the Statistical Institute of Jamaica (STATIN), questions have again been raised about dead electors on the voters' list.

Data from STATIN show that the population for seniors 65 years and older stood at 247,323 in 2015. This compares with 268,138 seniors listed as enumerated on the voters' list.

National Id System needed

Director of Elections Orrette Fisher is urging the Government to establish the long-awaited national identification system. According to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) head, this system would allow for each person to be given a unique number which would be used by the individual in all transactions with public entities from birth to death. "This will allow us to uniquely identify an elector who would have died and be able to remove that person from the list," he told stakeholders in the electoral process at yesterday's launch of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica's 'Democracy Passport' at The Pegasus hotel in New Kingston. The Democracy Passport provides a synopsis of the voting process and gives a brief overview of Jamaica's electoral system.

"As director of elections, I recognise the fact that we have on the list a number of persons who have migrated we are unable to remove, and dead electors, which has not been reported to us."

Fisher is also calling for changes in the current system of reporting deaths to the Registrar General's Department (RGD), noting that in some instances, reports are made to the department years after the deaths when a will is to be probated.

Fisher told the audience that there was a misconception by some who believe that there is a list of dead persons at the RGD. He said the majority of deaths reported to the department occured in institutions. According to Fisher, deaths that take place elsewhere, especially sudden deaths, often go unreported as far as the RGD is concerned.

He stressed that when the Electoral Office of Jamaica gets a list from the RGD, it does not include all deaths, and it also includes many persons who are not on the voters' list.

"The information given to the RGD is as reported by the informant. This often means that the name is misspelt, the age is incorrect, and it is usually approximated; there is no requirement for a date of birth; and the address often bears no relationship to the one that we have on the list." He said what this means is that the EOJ is unable to say who it is that died. He added that the office had to guard against removing the wrong person from the electoral list.

Meanwhile, an analysis of the February 25 general election by University of the West Indies Professor Ian Boxhill indicates that the youth cohort of voters aged 18-24 recorded the lowest voter turnout. The data showed that while 67 per cent, or two-thirds, of this age group got enumerated, only 42 per cent actually voted in the election.

In the category of adults aged 26-64, Boxhill pointed out that 49 per cent of those enumerated voted.

However, Boxhill explained that the data did not suggest that more youth refused to vote in February when compared with the number that voted in 2011. He said this study did not compare the 2011 data with those of 2016 to determine whether a greater percentage of the youth population voted in the latter poll.

edmond.campbell@gleanerjm.com