THE seeming low public interest in the local government process is having an impact on the ability of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) to recruit workers for the upcoming Local Government elections, and the municipal election in Portmore.
Addressing a press conference yesterday at the ECJ's Red Hills Road offices in St Andrew, chairman Professor Errol Miller said while the ECJ was able to identify the required number of persons for the March 26 elections, there isn't much wiggle room.
"There is not the same level of excitement and enthusiasm as for the general election, and while we were literally deluged with applications for people to work, we are meeting our targets, but it continues to be a challenge, as people are not able to serve," said Mille, noting that many tertiary level students who worked in the December 29 general election, and who would have been targeted by the ECJ, were not available this time around, as most of them are preparing for examinations.
Professor Miller explained that despite the seeming low interest and low-keyed campaigning by the political parties, the ECJ has been making steady progress with its preparations for the elections, which are to cost $900m, just $400m less than the amount spent on last year's general election.
Meanwhile, the ECJ chairman disclosed that fewer tents and upstairs buildings will be used in the upcoming elections. Following the December election, the ECJ acknowledged that some of the polling stations were inaccessible to physically-challengec voters. In other instances, persons complained that the tents did not offer adequate protection from the elements.
"We had to use 148 tents for the general election, in this election, because of negotiations with the owners of the premises, we are going to only use 55. In the same way, there were complaints about upstairs locations. We have also had some discussions, and in some cases where we could get agreements we have moved stations. In the general election in December we used 362 locations that were upstairs this time around it will be 162," said the ECJ chairman.
Meantime, members of the security forces and election day workers will cast their ballots next week Thursday, three days before the rest of the country votes. According to the ECJ, 24,362 election day workers are down to vote on March 21, along with 8,277 police personnel and 2,079 members of the military.
Under the provision of the Representation of the People Act, police and military personnel, as well as all election day workers, are required to vote three clear days before the rest of the population.
The November 30 voters' list, which has 1,648,000 electors, will be used in the local government election.