'Democracy Passport' key to electoral participation
Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), Dorothy Pine-McLarty, has hailed Wednesday's launch of Jamaica's first 'Democracy Passport' as essential to help develop a higher level of interest in community and electoral participation.
The following are excerpts from Pine-McLarty's speech during the launch at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston:
"Let me give you a little background to the passport ...
"Falun, a city in Sweden, had a big challenge with low voter turnout ... somewhere in the region of 45 per cent. Sweden utilised the Democracy Passport concept, with several other measures such as Democracy Centres in communities, and eventually saw 82 per cent of eligible voters taking part in local, regional and national elections in 2010. That city's voter turnout has continued to be among the highest in Europe.
"Here, while recognising that improving voter turnout is not the sole responsibility of the commission, we must do our part.
"This passport reminds citizens of their rights, the laws governing the country and elections, their role in the process and why they should become active citizens in their communities, making recommendations on how to improve the system, how to solve community problems, how to strengthen political representation and how to get a wider cross section of the population involved in participation in general and local government elections.
"While the passport will be distributed islandwide over time, we will be making an extra effort to get it into the hands of the young first-time voters.
"The passport, as you will see, is the size and shape of a national passport, and it succinctly describes the strength of democracy, why we need to vote and, of course, how to go about voting in Jamaica.
"There are some other interesting historical facts and principles which we hope will reinforce in the young minds what this business of democracy is all about and the importance of voting.
"This passport, however, is not for travelling and won't get you through immigration!
"Some may say that voting is formed by habit, so when young people learn the voting process and vote, they are more likely to do so when they are older. It follows that providing targeted public education and getting young people to vote early could be key to raising a new generation of voters in this country.
"We hope to help our people to understand that this is not about partisan politics, but more about their role in the governance process.
"As a country, we really need to engage our young people more. We need to give them practical reasons for becoming engaged ... and help to manage their expectations. They, too, have a role to play in making this country a better place to live, work and grow families."