KINGSTON — The House of Representatives has adopted a proposal to amend existing legislation to empower the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to prescribe electoral division boundaries, and prohibit the publication of a new list of electors between nomination day and Election Day.
Piloting the proposals, which are contained in an ECJ report to Parliament, Leader of Government Business in the House, Hon. Andrew Holness, on June 7, explained that this would require amendments to the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation Act; the Parish Councils Act, and the Representation of the People’s Act.
“The ECJ seeks no more authority than that which was reposed in the previous Electoral Advisory Commission (EAC), with respect to the setting of boundaries for electoral divisions. Previously it was the Minister of Local Government that had the authority to determine the number of electoral divisions and to set their boundaries,” Mr. Holness said.
The Leader explained that with the establishment of the EAC in 1979, this authority was given to the EAC as set out in the Parish Council Act, and the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation (KSAC) Act, and was in keeping with the principle that all electoral matters should be decided by the independent EAC, not by the party in government.
He noted that when the EAC was abolished in 2006, and replaced with the ECJ, the Parish Council and the KSAC Acts were not amended to empower the ECJ to carry out this function. This is the amendment that the report now recommends.
Turning to the amendment dealing with the publication of a new list of electors, Mr. Holness said, initially, there was no restriction on when a voters’ list could be published. “A list could be published before nomination day, or produced even a day or two before elections. In view of the disputes which arose when the voters’ list was produced on the eve of election day, the Representation of the People’s Act was amended to prohibit the publication of the voters’ list between nomination day and election day,” he told the House.
In 2003, the Representation of the People’s Act was amended to impose a time restriction on this publication, prohibiting the publishing of a list within five days of nomination day.
“It is the view of the ECJ that this 2003 amendment, having not explicitly provided for the publication of a voters’ list between nomination day and election day, one interpretation of the Representation of the People’s Act, as it now stands, is that a voters’ list could be published between nomination day and election day,” Mr. Holness pointed out.
The recommendation is to amend the Representation of the People’s Act to explicitly provide that no voters’ list can be published between nomination day and election day, and that any such list must be done at least five clear days before nomination day.
“The practical effect of this amendment would be to delay the publication of a list if an election were to be called on or about the 31st of May or the 30th of November – those two days being the customary dates for the biannual publication of the voters’ list. So, rather than having the list published as is customary, the election would have to be conducted on the list that was in effect five clear days before nomination,” the Leader noted.
While supporting the changes, some Opposition Members called for the amendments to be swiftly put into effect.
By ALPHEA SAUNDERS, JIS Reporter