Tue | Dec 1, 2020

Winning elections: one polling division at a time

Published:Monday | August 24, 2020 | 12:41 AMRuddy Mathison/Gleaner Writer
A PNP stuntman rides his motorcycle past supporters in Riversdale, cheering the arrival of a motorcade that was touring the constituency of St Catherine North Eastern on Saturday, August 15. The People’s National Party’s Oswest Senior-Smith is up again
A PNP stuntman rides his motorcycle past supporters in Riversdale, cheering the arrival of a motorcade that was touring the constituency of St Catherine North Eastern on Saturday, August 15. The People’s National Party’s Oswest Senior-Smith is up against the Jamaica Labour Party’s Kerensia Morrison.

People’s National Party (PNP) supporters in the battleground constituency of St Catherine North Eastern are banking on the party’s ground operations to get their newly registered voters to the polling stations in two key divisions in the constituency to pull off their fifth victory since universal adult suffrage in 1944.

Although the PNP’s Oswest Senior-Smith and the Jamaica Labour Party’s (JLP) Kerensia Morrison have been beating the pavement for weeks, it’s the foot soldiers in the communities who really determine where, and by how much, victory is earned.

Morrison was parachuted into the constituency after out-of-favour Member of Parliament Leslie Campbell indicated in June that he was stepping aside.

With an addition of 2,115 new voters to the list, the number of eligible electors has climbed from 22,037 in 2016 to 24,142 now. Almost 890 dead people were scrubbed from the list.

The PNP claims that it has registered the bulk of new electors, but it is election day, on September 3, that will prove the difference between scientific projections and bluff and bravado.

Party workers in the Troja and Mt Industry divisions told The Gleaner that getting out first-time voters will be crucial to their mission.

Correl Davis is the councillor caretaker for the Troja division and is also hoping to unseat the JLP’s William Cytall, who clinched victory in the last local government elections. Davis said she has been in the division working for the past year and a half and has registered approximately 500 new voters.

“I am confident that the party’s ground game will prevail. The people will be driven by the years of neglect, of not having running water, no Internet access, bad roads, and youth unemployment to vote, so all we have to do is get them to the polling stations,” Davis contends.

She said that of the 11 voting clusters the PNP has established over the years, the party has always won the majority of them. This year, they aim to increase the margin of victory in all clusters.

Rose Gordon, who canvassed 401 eligible electors in polling division 54, has also expressed confidence in a PNP victory.

“More than 300 say they will vote for the PNP, and I am confident we will get them to the polling station on election day,” she told The Gleaner.

Cecil Henry, who carried out canvassing in polling division 50, where he reached out to more than 300 eligible electors, said that he believes that he can churn out more than 250 voters to mark their X for the opposition candidate.

The Mt Industry division is expected to follow the same pattern, according to the Comrades.

Sitting PNP Councillor Roogae Kirlew told The Gleaner that he has supervised the registration of hundreds of new voters to the list in his division who are motivated and ready.

“There is no doubt we will be able to turn out substantially more voters this time around because of the neglect of the constituency over the years,” he said.

Kirlew said that a key plank of the PNP’s strategy is to increase Comrade participation in the Guy’s Hill division. A growing rift between JLP supporters, on their choice of councillor, could affect the turnout of Labourites for Morrison.

Optimism was shared among grass-roots supporters like Alfrado Francis, a resident of Redwood district, who has been supporting the PNP for 35 years.

There were mixed reactions from some newly registered voters, however.

Ava Marie Comrie, who has been living in the constituency all her life, said she is positive that she will vote - but for the ruling JLP.

“Despite the problems in the constituency, I will be voting for Andrew, not the lady,” she said of party leader Andrew Holness.

Inderia Pratt, 28, however, said that she would not be supporting either of the candidates.

Morrison, who lost in her bid to unseat Natalie Neita in St Catherine North Central in the 2016 general election, was tapped by the party to replace Campbell, who had grown unpopular with some supporters.

Campbell, who failed to unseat Neita in 2011, was successful in defeating Phyllis Mitchell by 122 votes in 2016 when he was asked to contest the St Catherine North Eastern seat.