2 elections, 1 day

2 elections, 1 day

Gov't gives notice of motion to amend electoral law

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

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The Government last night gave notice that it intends to table a motion to amend the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) to facilitate the holding of general and local government elections on the same date.

Leader of Government Business in the House of Representatives Karl Samuda gave the notice on behalf of Prime Minister Andrew Holness, saying that the motion will be tabled at the next meeting of the House.

The announcement comes after many years of discussion about the possibility and cost-effectiveness of having both elections. In fact, just last month, Director of Elections Glasspole Brown told a meeting of the Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) at Gordon House that the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) has the capability to hold general and local government elections on the same day. He stated, however, that his office would require additional time between the nomination of candidates and the casting of ballots.

Under the ROPA, nomination day must be scheduled a minimum of five days and a maximum of seven days after the announcement of an election. Additionally, there must be a minimum of 16 days and a maximum of 23 days between nomination and election days.

Noting the $2.4-billion set aside in the 2020-21 budget for both elections, Brown told the PAAC meeting: “Our preliminary estimate is that if we are able to combine both elections, you'd be looking at savings close to three quarters of a billion dollars.”

“There are a number of things we would need to do [because] critical is the period between nomination and the elections. There are certain activities that we now carry out in terms of the ROPA. If we are asked to do both elections, we would require additional time; we think we could work with a minimum of 32 days between nomination [and election day]. You're talking about printing two million ballots for the two elections, and you're going to now print four million ballots, and there are a number of additional things that need to be done,” Brown said.

He said the EOJ would also need more equipment but some of those would have to be sourced overseas, which would bring into play the need for additional security measures.

The next general election is due in February 2021, but the constitution allows a further three months for the polls to be held.

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