Weed out party hang­ers-on from elec­tion day

Jamaica Gleaner - - OPINION&COMMENTARY -

THE EDI­TOR, Sir: I HAVE asked this ques­tion on nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions and have re­ceived no plau­si­ble an­swers: What pur­pose does the party af­fil­i­ates/throng serve out­side a polling sta­tion on elec­tion days?

I went to vote Mon­day morn­ing, and the en­trance to the clus­ter of polling sta­tions was dec­o­rated with per­sons clad in green and orange. And de­pend­ing on which side of the road you make your en­try, you sure will get some­one seek­ing to find out whether or not you are OK.

This is very in­tim­ida­tory, and I can’t see the pur­pose such gath­er­ings serve in this tech­nol­ogy age. I lis­tened to the com­ments as I slowly walked by one camp and it ap­peared that per­sons are po­lit­i­cally stig­ma­tised by the camp they stopped at to get in­for­ma­tion.

For per­sons who are not clear where their polling sta­tion is lo­cated, there are sev­eral per­sons on the in­side to as­sist – the party reps who pa­trol the grounds, in party colours (an iden­ti­fi­ca­tion I find un­nec­es­sary) and the reps from the Elec­toral Of­fice of Ja­maica (EOJ). In­ter­est­ingly, the reps from the EOJ are armed with hand­held de­vices and with the click of a but­ton, the in­for­ma­tion is at their fin­ger­tips.

I am be­gin­ning to won­der if this is an ex­ten­sion of the longheld tra­di­tion of the ‘eat-a-food’ men­tal­ity that has been a cancer to our progress as a nation. As I am re­li­ably in­formed, these per­sons are paid and fed for the day.

The other as­pect of the process that I find an­noy­ing is per­sons turn­ing up at my gate dressed in party para­pher­na­lia, check­ing if I have al­ready voted and whether I needed a ride to the polling sta­tion. These are per­sons I have never met be­fore.

I stum­bled upon a quote some­time ago which is so apt for our po­lit­i­cal process: “Vot­ing is a right, not a duty and not a moral obli­ga­tion. A coun­try does not need vot­ers who have to be ca­joled, en­ticed, or per­suaded to cast a bal­lot. A coun­try needs vot­ers who wish to par­tic­i­pate in the process.”

The EOJ needs to step in and elim­i­nate these ad­di­tional steps that are some­times a de­ter­rent to per­sons who truly want to ex­er­cise their right to vote. PAT WIL­LIAMS BIGNALL wilbig@cw­ja­maica.com

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