Frustration as EOJ distributes new voter ID cardsTuesday, October 12, 2021
BY BRITTNY HUTCHINSON
The Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) was yesterday heavily criticised by Jamaicans who turned out in large numbers at its constituency offices in Kingston and St Catherine to collect new voter registration identification cards.
The long wait was particularly difficult for senior citizens, many of whom had to stand in line for hours.
Seventy-year-old Iceoline Bailey, who was seen slouching over a railing at the St Andrew Western office located in Duhaney Park, was a picture of frustration.
“Mi head a hurt mi and mi foot sick. Mi walk come out here and mi have to walk go back and mi just hear seh mi not going to get through, mi have to wait now until the Monday week after the holiday (National Heroes' Day) before mi can come back,” Bailey complained to the Jamaica Observer.
“Dem seh dem giving out number from 6:00 am but I didn't know that. I have been here very long and thought I could come and get a number but all now, nothing at all,” she added.
There was no clear indication of where the line started, as there was a large crowd at the entrance.
Another senior citizen, 71-year-old Jestina Crooks, who was among a group of people under a tent at the St Catherine South Eastern office, was equally annoyed. “When yuh preparing these things for the public they need to do it better. Elders are here. If they need to go to the restroom there is none here. Give them a seat under the tent so that they can sit and rest until the time come,” she said.
Crooks was especially concerned about those who are not physically well.
“Some of them cyaa stand up long. They are bent, some walking with crutches. They must consider the public in that way. They say from A-E and at this hour (12:25 pm) A and B is still out here, that don't make no sense, and the people are in the sun. Everywhere you go is the same thing, they don't respect elders,” Crooks fumed.
All current voter ID cards expire on December 31, 2021 and the distribution of new cards yesterday ran between 8:30 am and 4:00 pm across the island for electors whose surnames begin with the letters A to E.
A 60-year-old, who gave her name as Ms J, was at the same location as Crooks. She was seen leaning against a fence in the sweltering midday sun.
“Mi nuh sure how long mi out here, but a long time, and they said they have to do a process over again in the office before you get the ID card. You don't just go in and get it; they say it's not like that. That's rubbish!” she said.
When the Observer contacted Director of Elections Glasspole Brown about the concerns raised by the elders, he said the distribution will be assessed and adjustments made.
“There were a few seats for some persons. If you went to some of the offices you would have seen them sitting down. There are some changes to be made to Portmore South tomorrow (today) and we are going to set up a separate line for the elderly and those who are not so elderly, so as to be able to move the process a little bit faster,” he said.
He added that for the offices in Kingston, instructions were given to give priority to seniors and people in wheelchairs.
The distribution is scheduled to continue today for people with surnames beginning with the letters F to K; Wednesdays L to P, Thursdays Q to T; and Fridays U to Z.
Yesterday, 50-year-old Hope Benjamin, who went to the St Catherine South Eastern office, said the process was poorly organised.
“Mi come here from 7:00 am and is like we in the sun and we cyaa come in. People weh have all baby have to stand up in the sun. It is very slow. They started to give out numbers but then they stopped. It could have been organised a little better; yu not supposed to deh here how much o'clock. I didn't go to work this morning because I made plans for this day,” she said, adding that there was no social distancing.
At the St Andrew Western office, 36-year-old Kemar Brown told the Observer that the long wait resulted in people leaving in frustration.
“Most people gone home 'cause dem cya wait. Some even coming back to say they were there from morning. I get number 107 and I was here before people with number 30. Is after I was standing here how long I realised that I should get a number because the security deh all 'bout and not saying what people should do,” said Brown.
However, at the St Catherine East Central office there were no complaints about the process.
One woman, 23-year-old Jamelia Blair, said, “They not really moving slowly.
“I am currently on vacation and since my name falls under the list, I don't know when I will get the time again so I decided to come today.”
Her claim was corroborated by Karen Samuels, who said, “I just came to take the ID picture, not picking up as yet. Dem not moving slow, things alright so far.”
At the St Andrew East Central office, in Molynes Business Centre, 31-year-old Rushele Creary said she had no problem and was especially glad that people there were observing social distancing.
The director of elections said people were encouraged to maintain the COVID-19 protocols but only some complied at the offices.
“We have to continue to remind people about the protocols, especially those on the outside. What I found here today, too, is that there are a number of persons who came who basically were not scheduled for today but we tried to accommodate them. A number of them seemed to be coming out for renewals despite our appeal for them to get their card renewed,” he explained.