Fri | Jul 23, 2021

More pencils for polls, each to be sanitised after use

Published:Tuesday | August 25, 2020 | 12:14 AMErica Virtue/Senior Gleaner Writer

Nearly 100,000 lead pencils will be used in the island’s 7,000 polling stations next Thursday as Jamaicans elect new parliamentary members in a general election over which a deadly COVID-19 pandemic looms large.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown told The Gleaner that it is the first time that so many lead pencils will be used in a national election, roughly 90 per cent more than those used in previous polls.

The increase forms part of the efforts to try and stem the spread of the highly contagious coronavirus among electors, with the pencils sanitised after each use.

“We have roughly 7,000 polling stations. Some polling stations will have more, at least 10 or 15 pencils. If you give a station 15, per se, after the first 10 is used, they will be sanitised and the process continues right through the day,” Brown told The Gleaner yesterday.

“The presiding officer will have a number of pencils and as soon as a certain number is used, a member of sanitisation team will come and clean them. Each polling station will be given a certain number, but the presiding officer will have additional pencils,” he further explained. “We have worked out an average number to be given to the station, and one factor was the number of persons who are registered.”

Normally, a pencil is tied to the voting booth for each elector’s use. However, with the unprecedented conditions under which the polls are being held, the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) said it was making sure that no two electors used the same pencil without it being sanitised.

Some of the pencils being used for next Thursday elections were inherited from the last polls, Brown said, and the same process of saving them will continue.

Cases of the virus locally have skyrocketed since last week, with a single-day record of 116 confirmed cases on Sunday. Since last week, more than 500 cases have been recorded – higher than three times the total for the entire month of July. Healthcare workers and members of the security forces have also numbered among recent positive cases.

Anxiety has been heightened among members of the public, with doctors warning the country to brace for a spike in virus cases due to the disregard for COVID-19 protocols being observed as the race to September 3 heats up.

News emerged yesterday that Mandeville Mayor Donovan Mitchell has tested positive for COVID-19. It follows reports last week of a positive test result for Port Maria Mayor Richard Creary.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com