Fri | Apr 12, 2024

All systems go

Jamaica holds long-awaited local government elections today

Published:Monday | February 26, 2024 | 12:09 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter

The nation’s electoral system is all set to accommodate a little over two million Jamaicans eligible to cast their vote in today’s long-awaited local government elections.

A total of 6,726 polling stations in 2,148 locations across the island will be open as early as 7:00 a.m. and will remain open to the public up to 5:00 p.m.

Director of Elections Glasspole Brown, in a statement yesterday, said: “We have been working diligently to ensure that all is in place. The constituencies have met, supplies have been distributed, and workers will receive their final briefing on Sunday (yesterday).”

The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ), in the meantime, is encouraging electors to exercise patience at the polling stations and to bear in mind that they have until late evening to cast their votes.

“Many electors seem to turn out during the first two or three hours of polling, which is when the lines are usually longest. We are reminding them that voting lasts for 10 hours, so I am encouraging electors to utilise the time during the day, up to 5:00 p.m., to vote,” Brown said.

Earlier, he told The Gleaner that all polling stations had been checked, rechecked, and confirmed to avoid any mishap, similar to what happened on Thursday during voting for members of the essential services.

At that time, one polling division was negatively impacted as the ballots for that station did not arrive.

An investigation was undertaken to determine what happened.

Voters will have the option of selecting their choices from the 496 nominated candidates islandwide, including 37 independents in 14 municipal corporations.

Also included in the polls are three candidates vying for the only directly elected mayorship in Portmore, St Catherine.

From among the candidates, both the Jamaica Labour Party and the People’s National Party have each fielded 229, while there are four for the United Independents’ Congress.

According to the EOJ, the election will be monitored by the Election Centre, a hub for receiving and validating reports on incidents on the ground and providing resolutions as well as issuing reports to the media where necessary.

“The Constituted Authority, which comes into effect whenever an election notice is issued and can halt or void elections where deemed necessary, will oversee the election,” the agency added.

Local observer group Citizens Action for Free & Fair Elections (CAFFE) and a small delegation from the Organization of American States and the British High Commission will also be watching the process.

CAFFE Chairman Grace Baston noted that she has been impressed with the work of the EOJ in preparing for the elections.

However, she said the group would be vigilant in ensuring that the electoral process is free and fair.

Baston shared that CAFFE observers would be at the polling stations from as early as 6:30 in the morning as they would be observing everything from the set-up to the count.

Rovers will also be on the roads in areas where indoor agents are absent.

“By midday, we feel we will be able to make some kind of statement generally on the conduct of the polls, how prepared the officials are, the polling locations, and how smoothly everything is going,” she said.

As it relates to today, Baston said, “I am urging party supporters to be restrained and to be disciplined and responsible as they move around.”

The Jamaica Constabulary Force(JCF) is also urging citizens to be aware of the regulations that are in place and to adhere to them.

These include the closure of bars and liquor stores. These establishments should be closed an hour before the polls open and must remain closed for six hours after the closing of the polls.

Restrictions are also in place for public gatherings. Meetings, marches, and motorcades are not permitted. Also possession of weapons and any activities influencing voters within 100 metres of the polling station are strictly prohibited.

At the same time, the JCF said, “We encourage everyone to exercise their right to vote responsibly and to respect the rights of others.”

Electors who are still unclear where to vote may check the Electoral Commission of Jamaica’s website at www.ecj.com.jm and click on ‘Check my status’ on the homepage to find out at which polling station they are to cast their ballot.

tanesha.mundle@gleanerjm.com