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CAFFE to have presence in 40 constituencies

Published:Tuesday | September 1, 2020 | 12:31 AMJonielle Daley/Gleaner Intern

Citizens Action for Free and Fair Elections (CAFFE) is preparing to roll out a team of 46 roving observers and 183 indoor observers across the island as Jamaica holds its 18th general election on Thursday.

CAFFE Chairman Dr Lloyd Barnett revealed that the recruitment process for volunteers started late because of the pandemic and the possibility of the general election being held later. The non-governmental organisation was also experiencing funding challenges.

“I suppose there are people who would call in who have not called in because of it (COVID-19) and I imagine there are persons who serve before who would serve again but since the situation is different,” Barnett said.

As such, CAFFE will have a team of roughly 230 voters on the ground this time around in roughly 40 of the 63 contested seats, less than half of the usual 500-member team.

Despite the reduced numbers, the CAFFE chairman said he was confident that the observers would be able to effectively carry out their duties on Thursday.

He pointed out that the evaluation forms have been modified in light of the pandemic with his team of observers now assessing crowd control and the level of adherence to COVID-19 protocols on election day.

Barnett, an attorney-at-law, told our news team that his observers’ duties do not include reporting or investigating bribery as that would be a police matter.

“An ordinary citizen who is an observer won’t be able to report on that,” he said, adding that based on the events of the day and the interactions that usually take place among election day workers from both parties, there are limitations to what can be investigated at that level.

Barnett, who had previously raised concerns with The Gleaner about the potential disenfranchisement of confirmed COVID-19-positive members of the electorate, described the announcement that such persons would be facilitated to cast ballots as a “fairly reasonable method of tackling a difficult problem”.

He said the decision to have such persons vote late in the day was also a practical move.

“It would have been difficult [for them] to vote early or during the course of the day because you would meet up on the question of whether you sanitise in the middle of the day and interrupt the voting process,” he added.