Wed | Aug 12, 2020

Bill to hold double polls tabled

Published:Wednesday | July 15, 2020 | 12:29 AM

Jamaicans could for the first time exercise their franchise in two elections on a single day if a bill tabled on Tuesday in Parliament, to be piloted by Prime Minister Andrew Holness, is taken and passed at the next sitting of the Lower House.

At a time when the impact of COVID-19 has left a huge $81-billion fallout in government revenue, Holness is moving to have general and local government elections jointly.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown had earlier divulged that the country could save $750 million if both elections are held on the same day.

Leader of government business in the House of Representatives, Karl Samuda, gave notice Tuesday on behalf of Holness that the prime minister would pilot a bill titled ‘An Act to Amend the Representation of the People Act’.

The memorandum of objects and reasons of the bill states that the holding of local government elections at the same time as a general election, in instances where the timing for each respective election, in keeping with legal requirements, falls within 120 days of the other, is envisaged to result in significant cost savings to Jamaica, as well as administrative convenience.

In this regard, the Government has tabled the bill that is intended to amend the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) in order to facilitate the holding of both elections on a given day.

While no announcement has been made regarding a date for a general election, functionaries of the two major political parties have been engaging prospective voters as they campaign vigorously on the ground.

Speaking last Thursday in Annotto Bay, St Mary, the prime minister said while some were “summoning the silly season”, he did not have elections on his mind at this time.

The bill to amend ROPA also provides for the methods of immersion of digits in electoral ink, including spraying electoral ink on the digit, or such other methods as may be prescribed.

Further, it provides for agents to be appointed to represent political parties, rather than candidates, in circumstances where those candidates represent political parties.

A general election is constitutionally due by 2021 while the local government vote is due by November this year.