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Shaw questions voter verification process

Wednesday, September 26, 2012    

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SPALDING, Clarendon — Deputy Leader of the Opposition Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) Audley Shaw is questioning whether the current verification process is adequate to prevent fraudulent registration on Jamaica’s electoral voters’ list.

Addressing party workers and delegates at the JLP Area Council Three meeting recently, Shaw said there was need for the party “to engage in discussions with the Electoral Office of Jamaica” on the issue.

He suggested that since the decision was taken to have voter enumeration at fixed centres registration was less likely to be as rigorous, as was the case previously with house-to-house visits.   

“I am being very blunt with you. This is a fixed centre business, anybody can walk in and register; people can come from other constituencies… come and register; people from across borders can go and register.

“Is the verification process adequate to capture illicit registration? These are questions that must be asked… because if we want to preserve the integrity of the electoral system, we have to preserve the integrity of the voters’ list which is used on election day…,” he said.

Shaw framed his comments in the context of what he said was a growing difference between the size of the voters’

list and the number of people who have voted in elections in the last two decades.

“If you have a voters’ list that just keeps getting bigger and bigger, it is an invitation to electoral fraud; it is an open invitation to electoral fraud,” he said.

However, Shaw, who is member of Parliament for North East Manchester and chairman of Area Council Three, was careful to stress that he was not suggesting the JLP’s defeat in last December’s election was the result of electoral fraud.

“I am not here stating today that it is electoral fraud why we have lost the election, not stating that. But in the process of critical analysis and review and in the process of looking at the enumeration and the voters’ list, the issue of the size of the voters’ list and the relationship of that voters’ list to the actual number of people who vote must be a part of the analysis,” he said.

“We must understand what it is that’s going on and we must make sure that the integrity of the electoral process is not in any way being compromised,” he added.

Using approximate figures, Shaw noted that “over the past... three, four, five general elections if you look at the numbers, it’s anywhere from 880,000, to 980,000 people that vote; no more.

“What is of concern to me is that since 1989 the voters’ list keeps getting larger and larger while the number of people who vote are staying pretty much at the same level. The voters’ list took off especially after the Electoral Office of Jamaica made the decision to have fixed enumeration at fixed centres.

“What is happening is that a lot of people go and enumerate and, with the system they have now, when people migrate they are not taken off; the pace at which dead people are removed is painfully slow. What you now find is that… in 1997 the voters’ list stood at (approximately) 1.1 million, in 2002 [it] stood at about 1.3 million. The voters’ list is now at 1.6 million people.

“Now where are all these people? The number of people who are voting is still in the 900,000… so where are all these people? It’s something that I am looking at carefully and the party has to look at carefully, and we have to engage in discussions with the Electoral Office of Jamaica…,” Shaw said.

Just over half of registered electors voted in the December 29 election last year with the People’s National Party (PNP) defeating the JLP by a twothirds majority in the 63-seat Parliament. The voter turnout in the Local Government election that followed just over three months later was far lower, with the PNP also sweeping to victory.

The popular sentiment among political analysts was that the low voter turnout was the result of disaffection with the two major parties.

Shaw told JLP party workers that the enumeration process was absolutely important in order to take political power from the PNP at the next elections and return the country to “good governance”.

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