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Pandemic threatens diaspora votes

Published:Tuesday | August 25, 2020 | 12:16 AMLester Hinds/Gleaner Writer

A Gleaner survey among members of the Jamaican diaspora in the United States has revealed that many citizens who had initially planned to return to cast ballots in next week’s polls have opted to remain home. The about-turn is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory 14-day quarantine they would have to undergo on arrival.

But not all Jamaicans have decided to stay away.

Anthony, a Jamaica Labour Party supporter who did not wish to have his surname published, said he would still be flying into the island a day before the September 3 election.

“My polling station is in my yard, so I don’t have to go out to vote,” he said.

He told The Gleaner that he was aware of at least 10 Jamaicans who have already returned to the island to participate in the election.

“Some went down and are now out of quarantine and participating in the election campaign in St Mary, Trelawny, Westmoreland and elsewhere,” he said.

Donovan Coley is also set to arrive in the island on September 2 with the intention of casting his ballot the following day before returning to New York on September 4.

Although he did not disclose which party he will be supporting, Coley said that he has participated in a number of elections in Jamaica since living in the United States.

While they declined to come on record, several members of the Jamaican community in Florida who normally would travel to Jamaica to participate in the elections have told The Gleaner that they will be sitting this one out due to the quarantine order.

Sadie Campbell, president of the Jamaica Progressive League in New York, said that while it is customary for several members of the league to travel to Jamaica for elections, it will not be so this year.

“No one has shown an interest in going down for the election because of the virus. Everyone is staying put,” she said. “It is the first time in a long time that no one from the Progressive League will go to Jamaica to participate in an election.”

Efforts to get comments from the Jamaica Labour Party’s G2K chapter in New York proved unsuccessful.

The Gleaner also did not get a response from the Jamaica National Movement, a group affiliated with the People’s National Party, although our news team was reliably informed that at least one member would be flying into the island on election day to cast his vote.