‘Democ­racy Pass­port’ key to elec­toral par­tic­i­pa­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - SOCIAL SOMETHING EXTRA -

CHAIR­MAN OF the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica (ECJ), Dorothy Pine-McLarty, has hailed Wed­nes­day’s launch of Ja­maica’s first ‘Democ­racy Pass­port’ as es­sen­tial to help de­velop a higher level of in­ter­est in com­mu­nity and elec­toral par­tic­i­pa­tion.

The fol­low­ing are ex­cerpts from Pine-McLarty’s speech dur­ing the launch at The Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel in New Kingston:

“Let me give you a lit­tle back­ground to the pass­port ...

“Falun, a city in Swe­den, had a big chal­lenge with low voter turnout ... some­where in the re­gion of 45 per cent. Swe­den utilised the Democ­racy Pass­port con­cept, with sev­eral other mea­sures such as Democ­racy Cen­tres in com­mu­ni­ties, and even­tu­ally saw 82 per cent of el­i­gi­ble vot­ers tak­ing part in lo­cal, re­gional and na­tional elec­tions in 2010. That city’s voter turnout has con­tin­ued to be among the high­est in Europe.

“Here, while recog­nis­ing that im­prov­ing voter turnout is not the sole re­spon­si­bil­ity of the com­mis­sion, we must do our part.

“This pass­port re­minds cit­i­zens of their rights, the laws gov­ern­ing the coun­try and elec­tions, their role in the process and why they should be­come ac­tive cit­i­zens in their com­mu­ni­ties, mak­ing rec­om­men­da­tions on how to im­prove the sys­tem, how to solve com­mu­nity prob­lems, how to strengthen po­lit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and how to get a wider cross sec­tion of the pop­u­la­tion in­volved in par­tic­i­pa­tion in gen­eral and lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions.

“While the pass­port will be dis­trib­uted is­land­wide over D.K. Duncan (right), speaks with Der­rick Smith (left), min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter, Earl Jar­rett (sec­ond left), ECJ mem­ber, and Or­rette Fisher, di­rec­tor of elec­tions. ECJ Chair­man Dorothy Pine-McLarty (third right), Or­rette Fisher (right), di­rec­tor of elec­tions, and Earl Jar­rett (third left), ECJ mem­ber, look at the ECJ Democ­racy Pass­port with Elias Fen­nell (left), Deb­o­rah Fisher (sec­ond left) and Hadeikaye Wil­liams af­ter pre­sent­ing the books to them. time, we will be mak­ing an ex­tra ef­fort to get it into the hands of the young first-time vot­ers.

“The pass­port, as you will see, is the size and shape of a na­tional pass­port, and it suc­cinctly de­scribes the strength of democ­racy, why we need to vote and, of course, how to go about vot­ing in Ja­maica.

RE­IN­FORC­ING IM­POR­TANCE

“There are some other in­ter­est­ing his­tor­i­cal facts and prin­ci­ples which we hope will re­in­force in the young minds what this busi­ness of democ­racy is all about and the im­por­tance of vot­ing.

“This pass­port, how­ever, is not for trav­el­ling and won’t get you through im­mi­gra­tion!

“Some may say that vot­ing is formed by habit, so when young peo­ple learn the vot­ing process and vote, they are more likely to do so when they are older. It fol­lows that pro­vid­ing tar­geted pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion and get­ting Dorothy Pine-McLarty, chair­man of the Elec­toral Com­mis­sion of Ja­maica (ECJ), presents the ECJ Democ­racy Pass­port to Der­rick Smith (right), min­is­ter with­out port­fo­lio in the Of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter, while Or­rette Fisher (sec­ond right), di­rec­tor of elec­tions, and Earl Jar­rett, ECJ mem­ber, look on dur­ing the com­mis­sion’s Democ­racy Fo­rum and launch of the Democ­racy Pass­port at The Ja­maica Pe­ga­sus ho­tel in New Kingston on Wed­nes­day.

young peo­ple to vote early could be key to rais­ing a new generation of vot­ers in this coun­try.

“We hope to help our peo­ple to un­der­stand that this is not about

par­ti­san pol­i­tics, but more about their role in the gov­er­nance process.

“As a coun­try, we re­ally need to en­gage our young peo­ple more. We need to give them

prac­ti­cal rea­sons for be­com­ing en­gaged ... and help to man­age their ex­pec­ta­tions. They, too, have a role to play in mak­ing this coun­try a bet­ter place to live, work and grow fam­i­lies.”

PHO­TOS BY RU­DOLPH BROWN

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