Fri | Dec 6, 2019

EOJ competent, capable, ready for referendum - Elections body can handle both simultaneously – Brown

Published:Sunday | November 17, 2019 | 12:13 AM
Glasspole Brown, director of elections.
Orette Fisher, former director of elections
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Jamaica’s elections boss, Glasspole Brown, says the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) is competent, capable and ready to handle national elections as well as a referendum on any issue should the government decide on simultaneously having both.

Brown told The Sunday Gleaner that the process is similar to that which chooses the mayor of Portmore and the local government representative for the St Catherine constituency in which the municipality falls, with electors voting via two separate ballots.

“There may be some confusion among the voters, and there may not be. But to avoid any confusion that could possibly arise, my preference is for two ballots. One for the elections and one for the referendum. But the people of Portmore already have experience having two ballots at the elections,” Brown said.

According to him, the current size of the ballot paper takes into consideration the number of parties and their representatives, as well as independent candidates that may have to be accommodated.

“If we are going to go that route, we may need an additional one person to the teams we are accustomed to work with. We would also need additional ballot boxes, and they do not have to be the metal boxes we currently have for the general election. In other jurisdictions they have used cardboard boxes or plastic boxes. Security of the boxes would be the only concern,” Brown explained.

For him, the country would make considerable savings having both simultaneously, as the additional person per polling station would not double the overall costs.

Commenting on a referendum’s impact on the polling time, he said it would not significantly affect the current 7 a.m.- 5 p.m. poll time.

“I don’t think there would be need to either start earlier of end later. We know that the bulk of the voters come early in the morning and there is a lull in the afternoon. So even if the morning crowd spill over into the early afternoon, I believe it would be balanced, with a smaller number of persons coming to vote during that period,” he stated.

Brown’s predecessor, Orette Fisher, said he felt having both was the “most common sense thing to do”.

“It costs more than $2 billion to hold general elections. The process for a referendum is similar to that of a general election. To hold a referendum would be an addition $2 billion. So it is the most common sense thing to do. And the system I know that is available at the EOJ, I am sure it can handle both,” Fisher told The Sunday Gleaner.

The former elections boss said he did not believe government would provide another $2 billion to $3 billion to conduct a referendum poll. He also said consideration could be given to increasing the size of the ballot, from the current letter-size ballot to legal size, or use a separate ballot.

“The EOJ uses metal ballot boxes for safety and security, and special boxes could be secured for the referendum ballots. I don’t think it would be necessary to purchase 7,000 more metal boxes. What would you do with them afterwards? So either the ballot size is increased and the electors vote for their representatives and answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on the referendum question, or use a separate ballot,” Fisher suggested.

Fisher would not comment on matters which should be put to the public for a referendum.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com