ONLINE READERS COMMENT: PM choosing election day outdated

Sunday, October 22, 2017

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Dear editor,

The recent elections that were called by Prime Minister Andrew Holness have raised the issue of the need for revisions in when elections are held. The upcoming elections are scheduled for October 30, which is a Monday, the beginning of a business week.

I am sure that many people are not very happy about this election being on a Monday. Many voters will likely arrive at work late or leave early or sneak out during lunch, just to cast their ballots. Why? Because Election Day has been formally set on a particular day.

It is an issue we face every general election cycle, where we are faced with large amounts of disruptions to our daily routines in order to facilitate casting ballots.
The critical question is why we cannot have predetermined election days on a specified Sunday? A part of the reason is the law. According to the Representation of the People Act, a prime minister may call an election on any day that he/she sees fit, with the exception of Sundays and public holidays.

This is out of date and is a major contributor to inefficient and ineffective democracy. As a result of this legislation, election officials have a difficult time preparing for elections. If the elections are called too early the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) does not have sufficient time to get election ready while if the elections are delayed then the EOJ runs the risk of over preparing and therefore over spending.

This law also adds a high degree of uncertainty to the local economy. This is because businesses tend to withhold or delay investment due to the uncertain position of not knowing the government with which they will have to do business. Another consequence of the current legislation is that businesses cannot plan for a slow down in activity. As a result, there is a shortfall in revenue.

I believe that we should have fixed election days on a Sunday. This will solve major problems that plague our election process. First, it will eliminate the uncertainty as it pertains to calling elections by legislating exactly when an election will be held. Secondly, having these fixed elections dates on Sundays will eliminate disruption to businesses as well as general daily routines of everyday Jamaicans.

Most importantly, it will increase voter turnout owing to the fact that most Jamaicans have their Sundays off work, and as such have the opportunity to go out and cast their votes without the need to worry about time.

Javon Moatt

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