KINGSTON — The Bill prohibiting open balloting, and removing limitations on the use of vehicles to convey voters to polling stations on election day was approved by the Senate on Thursday November 24, 2011.
The Bill, which has been hustled through both Houses of Parliament this week to ensure implementation prior to a likely early General Election, was piloted in the Senate by Leader of Government Business and Minister of National Security, Senator Dwight Nelson. It was passed in the House of Representatives on Tuesday November 22, 2011.
The two main amendments are based on the recommendations of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), contained in a report to Parliament tabled in October, 2010. However, it was the second time that the Commission was including them in a report, as it did so in October 2006, but that report was neither debated nor approved.
The Commission decided to incorporate them in the October 2010 or “current” report, as well as include recommendations on the transfer of indoor agents within polling stations in a constituency, and to increase the number of selected members of the Constituted Authority from three to four.
The result was a Bill which has amended the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) to protect the secrecy of the ballots, by prohibiting the use of any recording device, digital or otherwise, to be used by electors to record their ballot after it has been marked, and to make violation of the prohibition subject to the same penalty as other violations of the secrecy of the ballot.
It has also amended the Act to remove all restrictions on the use of motor vehicles to convey voters to the poll, as well as the need to register these vehicles, the restrictions on the registered vehicles and the special provisions relating to urban constituencies.The changes also provide that the four components of the Official Voters List (military, police, EOJ employees and civil lists) be distributed to candidates at the same time prior to Election Day, and prohibits the transfer of candidates’ agents between polling stations within the same polling location.
“Currently, insufficient time is afforded to Candidates to independently verify that the police list, military list, election officers list and civil list add up exactly to the Official Voters’ List. So this (amendment) seeks to ensure that this deficiency and this inability are addressed,” Senator Nelson stated.
He explained that, within seven days after Nomination Day, the Returning Officer shall deliver or send by registered post to each candidate a copy of a military voters’ list, a police voters’ list and an election officers voters’ list prepared in relation to each constituency.
In addition, under Section 44 of the Act, the Constituted Authority, which comes into effect whenever an election notice is issued and comprises three “selected” members of the ECJ and two other persons, including a retired judge, will now have four “selected” members. The selected members are appointed by the Governor-General on the advice of the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition.
The Bill was passed without any amendments.
By Latonyta Linton, JIS Reporter