Tue | Sep 29, 2020

EOJ crafts COVID rules for election day

Published:Tuesday | August 11, 2020 | 12:23 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter
The EOJ has disclosed that it is implementing a raft of new measures at polling stations to curb the spread of COVID-19.
The EOJ has disclosed that it is implementing a raft of new measures at polling stations to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Jamaicans gearing up to cast their ballot are being urged to wear masks when they vote on election day but Director of Elections Glasspole Brown said that those in breach will not be turned away from polling stations.

Instead, Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) workers may have to issue masks to ensure voter compliance.

The EOJ has also revealed that it will be assigning a COVID clean team to ensure that electors sanitise before dipping their fingers in the ink on election day. Brown said the sanitisation team will also be enforcing other safety rules given the COVID-19 pandemic.

“On election day, we are going to seek to enforce social distancing, and we are going to try to encourage everybody to wear their masks and the necessary sanitisation will take place, and the process by which we administer the ink on election day is going to require some level of sanitisation,” Brown told The Gleaner.

“As an additional safety measure, as soon as the electorate return the ballot, having marked the ballot behind the polling booth, they will be asked to resanitise their hand and then dip their finger in the ink.”

The ink is alcohol based, the director said.

The EOJ and the Ministry of Health & Wellness have signed off on a COVID-19 protocol that is expected to help safeguard the health of citizens on both nomination day and election day.

The protocols were ratified more than two weeks ago.

Brown said that as soon as electors enter the grounds of the polling station, monitors will enforce strict observance of the wearing of masks and hand sanitisation.

The EOJ will likely use nomination day as a dress rehearsal for the full electoral process. Brown disclosed that electoral officials will restrict the number of persons that are allowed in the nomination centre. Temperature checks will also be administered.

There has been mounting pressure for Prime Minister Andrew Holness to call the election before the new school term gets under way on September 7. The two major political parties have cranked up their campaign machinery in recent days, fuelling speculation that Jamaicans could be heading to the polls in short order, or “soon-soon”, according to Attorney General Marlene Malahoo Forte, a confidante of the prime minister and member of parliament for St James West Central.

Brown said that the ECJ is ready to facilitate the process and that its workers’ safety will be safeguarded on nomination day and election day.

“All our workers will be in masks. All our workers will be sanitised on a regular basis,” he assured.

Up to last week, more than 22,000 presiding officers, poll clerks, reserves, and supervisors were fully trained. All nomination, counting, and polling centres have also been identified and training in the use of the electoral verification identification system was almost completed.

A general election is constitutionally due by March 2021.