Fri | Jun 5, 2020

Write-in ballots and political representation

Published:Thursday | November 25, 2010 | 12:00 AM

The Editor, Sir:

Alaskan Republican candidate Lisa Murkowski ran a write-in campaign in the recent US midterm election after losing the GOP primary to fellow Republican Joe Miller. When the votes were counted and recounted, she was declared the winner over GOP candidate Miller and Scott McAdams of the Democratic Party. Since then, the result has been challenged awaiting a court ruling.

However, a write-in candidate is one in an election whose name does not appear on the ballot but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person's name on election day.

Some US States allow voters to paste a sticker with the name of a candidate they perceived should have been given the opportunity to contest the election. Write-in candidates rarely win, and votes are often cast for ineligible people or even fictional characters. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy are counted among those who have won by write-in votes.

Viewed as an American tradition, write-in candidates have also been elected in Sweden, before 1994 in Brazil and there was a bizarre 1997 case in Ecuador where a foot powder called Pulvapies was entered on the ballot as a candidate, a publicity stunt, and received the most votes in the election.

People's choice rejected

This brings us to Jamaica where often, political parties, in seeking to secure a victory in a marginal or unsure seat, post candidates who reside well outside the constituency to the exclusion of the people's own choice of candidates.

For example, although a native of the constituency was unanimously chosen by the delegates at their regional meeting, there are pockets of People's National Party (PNP) supporters of North East St Elizabeth who are agitating for a recall of Senator Basil Waite as the replacement for outgoing member of parliament, Kern Spencer.

Dissenters are calling for the "swift removal" of Senator Waite from the constituency and are threatening "strong action" if their wish remains unmet. If we were in the US a "strong action" could go the route of a write-in candidate in NE St Elizabeth in the next general election, then it may very well be one of the candidates who lost to Mr Waite, a shopkeeper but not ever a banana tree in Elderslie.

The Jamaican electoral system does not consider write-in candidates but I believe that political repre-sentatives should come from, or not far from, the constituency which he/she chooses to represent. Such persons put forward as the people's representative of whichever political party should have more than passing familiarity of the constituency.

They should have years of hard work on the ground, should be familiar with the development plans and can recite the needs of the constituency better than any new-comer politician.

I am, etc;