Más allá del voto en una pandemia – Jamaica Observer

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Beyond this vote in a pandemic

From all reports, the system put in place yesterday for election day workers and members of the security forces to cast their ballots in the general election went largely smoothly.

That is indeed comforting, given the fact that this general election is being conducted in the midst of a pandemic and there are genuine fears among some voters about the possible risk to their health at polling stations.

It took some time, but yesterday the Office of the Prime Minister released new protocols for voting in the parliamentary election under the Disaster Risk Management Order.

In addition to requiring voters to observe the COVID-19 safety protocols — the wearing of masks, submitting to temperature checks before entering a polling station, washing and sanitising hands upon entering a polling station, “and at such other times while at the polling station as may be directed by an election officer”; as well as maintaining physical distance of six feet — the order also speaks to arrangements to ensure that people in quarantine and isolation, as well as the elderly observing the State’s stay-at-home order, are not denied their right to vote.

The order also sets out requirements for the safe transport of COVID-affected voters to and from polling stations, and advises that they notify the Ministry of Health and Wellness before leaving quarantine for the polling station.

Additionally, the order states that anyone who develops any symptoms of COVID-19, or any flu-like or respiratory symptoms, should immediately inform an election officer at the polling station.

As we said, the measures took some time to be formaulated, but they will calm fears that many people were at risk of being disenfranchised in the election.

At the same time, we reiterate a point we made in this space a few weeks ago that there needs to be a review of the Representation of the People Act to make provisions for instances of difficulty of the kind now being experienced by the country.

COVID-19 has really brought to the fore inefficiencies in a number of the measures and systems utilised in governance and general operation of business. We suspect that this virus will not be the last to affect mankind, and as such the country needs to ensure that its institutions are able to function as best as possible and without prejudice to the rights and safety of all citizens in times of crisis.

It is our wish that Thursday’s exercise will go without incident, and that the safety our every elector will be at the centre of the process.

The new Government will have a lot on its plate, and as we pointed out in yesterday edition, the Administration will have no honeymoon, given how badly COVID-19 has ravaged the economy.

This issue, though, needs to be placed high on the legislative agenda.

Jamaica Observer

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