Monday 10 August, 2020

Election Watch: How/Who can register to vote

Despite being in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, the worst pandemic to hit mankind in a century, there is increasing chatter that Jamaica’s next general election, though not constitutionally due until 2021, could be held later this summer.

It is a high stakes election for the country’s two main political parties – the governing Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the Opposition People’s National Party (PNP).

In the case of the PNP, the party will be looking to retake the reins of government after going down to a shock defeat on February 25, 2016, having called the election early with more than a year left in its term.

For the JLP, its supporters have stated that all the economic indicators were in the right place, including record low unemployment and inflation as well as the lowest debt to GDP rate in many years. Major infrastructure works were winding down with others about to start before COVID-19 hit, in the process blowing a $120 billion hole in the 2020/2021 budget. The government was forced to turn its attention to the biggest social bailout in the country’s history. It is out to prove that, despite the setbacks, it deserves a second term in office.

For both parties, voter turnout is key but that starts with registration. Both parties have to ensure that their supporters are registered to vote.

Below, Loop News explains/highlights the steps involved in the voter registration process, including who can register and where to do so:

The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) publishes two voters’ list each year. One list is published on May 31 and the other six months later on November 30. Registration takes place on a continuous basis and persons desirous of being added to the list can simply visit their ECJ constituency office and apply.


Who can register?

Every Jamaican citizen who possesses the following qualifications is entitled to register to vote;

- Is a Jamaican citizen, 18 years or over and resident in Jamaica or

- Is a Commonwealth citizen who is 18 years of age or older and who is resident in Jamaica at the date of registration and who has been a resident for at least 12 months prior to the date of registration.

- Is not subjected to any legal incapacity to vote such as being of an unsound mind, convicted or under a suspended sentence.


Step 1 – Visit Constituency Office

Visit the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) preferably in your constituency. These offices are open to the public from 8.30 am to 4.30 pm, Mondays to Thursdays and 8.30 am to 3.30 pm on Fridays. If you have just turned 18, you may be asked to show proof of age, so bring your birth certificate with you.


Step 2 – Personal Data Collected

At the office, the registration clerk will assist you in filling out a Registration Record Card (RRC). This form is used to record the elector’s demographic information, photograph, and fingerprints.


Step 3 – Residence Verification

After you have filled out the application, EOJ representatives and scrutineers (political party representatives) will visit your residence at a later date to verify the address you gave. The registration process is not complete until your residence has been verified.

Step 4 – Await Processing

Once your address has been verified, your application is processed. Your information is verified for accuracy and your fingerprints are cross-matched to ensure there are no duplications.


Step 5- ID Card Issued

When the registration process is complete, your name is added to the voters’ list and your ID card will be issued, but only after the voters' list has been published. Depending on when you register, this may be May 31 or November 30.

Your voters’ ID is used as a de facto national ID (and in some cases internationally). Be sure to take it with you on election day.

P.S. The law requires that registration takes into account the place where you are ‘normally resident’. This means the place where you call home and it can be proven that you live there. If you have more than one residence, you will need to indicate the one in the constituency you prefer to vote.

*The above information is provided by the Electoral Commission of Jamaica.

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