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KINGSTON – Nearly two million Jamaicans are eligible to cast ballots for a new government on Thursday with the two major political parties – the ruling Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) and the main opposition People’s National Party (PNP) – equally confident of winning, even though opinion polls support a victory for Prime Minister Andrew Holness’ JLP.
“As Prime Minister of Jamaica and leader of the stronger team, I have never taken for granted the trust and confidence invested in us by Jamaica,” Holness, 48, has said on the eve of the polls, adding “after four years, while there is more to be done, we are proud to report that we have been moving Jamaica in the right direction”.
A total of 139 candidates were nominated to contest the elections that Holness called six months ahead of the five-year anniversary of the 17th general election in the country’s history on February 25, 2016.
The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) said that both the JLP and the PNP will contest all 63 constituencies, with 13 candidates independently contesting seats in several other constituencies.
The Voters’ List, which was published on July 31, shows 1 913 410 registered electors. An additional 30 293 persons are now on the official list of electors, relative to the November 30, 2019.
Director of Elections, Glasspole Brown, says the EOJ has been having discussions about the use of technology that could allow Jamaicans to vote from any polling station in any parish across the island.
“We are already seeking, as best as possible, to use much more technology in what we do. We have a significant database that has a large amount of biometric data and if we are able to use that biometric data in whichever activity we do, then that would be good. Our vision is geared towards greater use of technology in all our activities,” Brown told the Jamaica Information Service (JIS) News.
He said the Electronic Voter Identification System, formerly the Electronic Voter Identification and Ballot Issuing System, is computer-based and requires voters to place a specific finger on a fingerprint scanner. “Once the voter’s identity has been confirmed, then a ballot will be issued for voting,” Brown said.
The elections are taking place in an era of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic that had severely curtailed the traditional campaign of motorcades, rallies and adherence to the social distancing protocols that limited gatherings to very small or as some would argue insignificant numbers.
Browne is also urging elderly voters to avoid the traditional early morning rush by voters to cast their ballots early for fear of contracting the virus that as of Wednesday had killed 24 and 2 683 since the first case was detected in mid-March.
He is urging them to visit the polling stations after 11 a.m. (local time) even as the authorities are hoping that COVID-19-positive persons would be allowed to vote between the hours 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday. (CMC)