EOJ trained thousands in anticipation of local polls in 2021
In anticipation of the holding of local government elections in 2021, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) gave instructions to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) to put plans in place for Jamaicans to exercise their franchise. “On...
In anticipation of the holding of local government elections in 2021, the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) gave instructions to the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) to put plans in place for Jamaicans to exercise their franchise.
“On receiving instructions in July 2021 to commence preparation for local government elections, the field department embarked on several activities,” the 2021-2022 annual report of the ECJ stated.
Following the postponement of local government elections for three months in November 2020, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, and again in February 2021, for a further 12 months, the ECJ told the EOJ to step up its activities for elections due up to early 2022.
In an effort to strengthen the cadre of trainers who were employed in the 2020 general elections, a decision was taken by the EOJ to use a different approach to select trainers.
Returning officers were asked to contact persons who were trainers in previous elections, teachers, and others with training skills to apply to be trainers in each constituency.
In its annual report, which was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday, the EOJ reported that applications had been reviewed and applicants shortlisted for interviews islandwide. Interviewing panels comprising EOJ senior managers interviewed the candidates and selected the quota of trainers required for each constituency.
It trained 35 persons as super trainers in mid-November 2021, who, thereafter, were assigned to conduct training of trainers in each region.
A week later, 329 of the 452 trainers of election-day workers (EDWs) were trained regionally by super trainers. The remaining recruits were trained up to the end of November 2021.
In November 2021, returning officers were instructed to identify and confirm training venues in their respective constituencies for the training of EDWs.
At the time, returning officers were also instructed to confirm the availability of locations earmarked for polling stations. All polling locations were confirmed except for three in St Andrew, St Catherine, and St James.
Similarly, returning officers were instructed to confirm the availability of nomination and counting centres – except for courthouses, which were to be confirmed by the director of elections. The EOJ reported that all nomination and counting centres, except courthouses, had been confirmed.
Further, returning officers were instructed in 2021 to start calling EDWs who worked in the 2020 general elections and performed satisfactorily.
“The constituency offices were provided with EDW application forms to commence the recruitment of new EDWs on October 1, 2021. Up to December 31, 2021, a total of 12,503 election day workers have been confirmed,” the EOJ stated in its annual report.
Despite the extensive preparations to hold local government elections, the Government made two further postponements, pushing back the polls for up to February 28, 2024.
With the latest delay in the polls, the Government came in for a chorus of criticism.
The reasons given for postponing the elections were also rubbished by the parliamentary Opposition and some civil groups.
Among the reasons put forward by Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie for the latest delay, which was approved by Parliament last month, was that the country was still on the path to recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
McKenzie said that the administration was also focused on building resilience from external and internal shocks and expanding economic growth.
According to him, holding the polls at this time would divert the country from these goals.
The local government minister also cited ongoing efforts to transition the Portmore municipality to become Jamaica’s 15th parish.
The country last had local government elections in November 2016.