Tue | Jun 15, 2021

Massive savings for 2-in-1 election

Published:Wednesday | June 10, 2020 | 1:09 PMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

TAXPAYERS COULD see a huge windfall of nearly $750 million if Jamaica holds both the local government and general elections together. The local government vote is due in November this year, while the general election is due next February.

However, with the constitutional allowance of three months post due date in special circumstances, local government elections can be held no later than next February.

“Even in the COVID-19 era, we estimate that we could hold both elections for under $2b,” Director of Elections Glasspole Brown told The Gleaner yesterday.

Our preliminary estimate is that if we are able to hold both elections together, the country could save nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars,” Brown told Tuesday’s sitting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) examining the First Supplementary Estimates of the 2020-2021 fiscal year.

Brown was responding to Kingston Eastern and Port Royal Member of Parliament Phillip Paulwell, who questioned him about the feasibility of the two-in-one vote.

The Sunday Gleaner had reported the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) as saying that it had the competence and capability to conduct both elections simultaneously, but adequate time was of the essence.

“If both elections are held on the same day, possible legislative changes may have to be made. Further analysis of the legal and logistical requirement will be necessary depending on the method agreed upon to conduct both polls on the same day,” Brown had said.

“For example, the law expressly provides for the period in which polls should be taken.”

Brown said that while the Representation of the People Act does not prohibit the holding of both elections on the same day, there is a prescribed period. “More specifically, local government elections are to be held and any deviation from the law as currently exists will require amendment,”he said.

DWINDLING TURNOUT

Ruling parties have often used local government polls as a test of the political temperature before lining up their ducks for the general election. However, for several cycles, voter turnout has been dwindling for both elections.

This has led trade unionist Helene Davis-Whyte and former Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica President Howard Mitchell to call for the issue to be urgently considered.

People’s National Party President Dr Peter Phillips on Monday endorsed the experiment as feasible.

The Government has allotted $2.4b for the holding of both elections in the Estimates of Expenditure for 2020-2021.

There is currently no fixed date for voting in Jamaica, but general elections are constitutionally due every five years, and local government polls every three years.