The next general elections are expected to take place within six months in Jamaica. However, there is much concern about the provisions being made for certain persons who are qualified to vote under the laws of Jamaica. Every Jamaican should know their rights and seek to ensure that they exercise them.
The main Act which deals with an individuals, right to vote is found in “The Fundamental Rights (Additional Provisions) (Interim ) Act.
Section 4 . 4 states:
(1)Every person shall have the right to vote and to participate in free and fair elections if that person :
(a) is qualified to be registered as an elector and is so registered; and
(b) is not, by the provision of any law in force for the time being, disqualified from being eligible to be registered as an elector.
(2) A person shall be qualified to be registered as an elector if he –
(a) is a citizen of Jamaica resident in Jamaica at the date of registration; or
(b) is a Commonwealth citizen (other than a citizen of Jamaica) who is resident in Jamaica at the date of registration and who has been so resident for at least twelve months immediately preceding that date; and
(c) has attained the age of eighteen years
(3) In subsection (1) the right to vote means the right to vote in-
(a) general elections for members of the House of Representatives;
(b) parish council elections for councilors to each Parish Council;
(c) elections for councilors for the Council of the Kingston and St. Andrew Corporation; and
(d) any referendum held under the Constitution or any other law.
THIS MEANS THAT THIS RIGHT EXTENDS TO:
1. Person in detention – Those who are yet to be found guilty of an offence. These are persons who are deemed innocent until found guilty and therefore have a right to vote.
2. Persons in Hospitals – Once a person is of sound mind and although hospitalized, he also has the right to vote.
3. Jamaican citizens abroad – There are several Jamaican consulates and embassies located in various other countries. One of their roles and functions should be to facilitate the voting process for persons who are abroad.
4. Persons unjustly identified as “mentally ill” or those housed in alms / poor houses – Often the old and the poor is neglected. However, the state has a duty to make provisions for these persons.
The electoral office has an obligation to take the above persons into account and to ensure that ALL qualified Jamaicans have the opportunity to exercise their franchise. Every qualified citizen or in the case of the sick, their representative, should ensure that they visit the electoral office in their area to make certain that their names are on the Jamaican voter’s list. If they are not on the list, then they should take the necessary steps to guarantee that they and their family members are placed on the list.
Jamaican citizens who are temporarily abroad should consider writing to their Consulate/ Embassy to find out what facilities are being put in place to give them the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. The more people know their rights and demand that they are respected, the more the authorities will take them into account.
Do not sit on the sidelines this year. Learn about your rights and ensure that you vote in the next Jamaican elections. Jamaica is your country. You can and should determine its future!
DEIDRE S POWELL
” Your Rights, My Concern”
About Deidre S. Powell
Deidre S. Powell is an Attorney at Law from Jamaica, who is an accredited Member of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators. She was called to the Jamaican Bar in 2000 and has practice in areas such as General Civil Litigation, Estate Planning, Intellectual Property, Insurance, Personal Injury, Conveyancing and Commercial Law. She was accredited with Honours degrees in Bachelor of Science ( International Relations ) and Bachelor of Laws from the University of the West Indies. She also holds a Masters of Law degree in International Business Law from University of London. She is currently on leave from private practice as she pursues a PhD in Law at University of London. Her thesis focuses on the role of the Caribbean Court of Justice as an institutional actor in the promotion of regional integration. She is currently an Intern at the Caribbean Court of Justice in Trinidad, an Arbitrator/Mediator and Legal Consultant to various firms and attorneys worldwide. You may contact her at : [email protected] Please visit her website at: www.jamaicanlawyer.com and to view information on her research visit: www.caribbeancourtofjustice.blogspot.com