|PNP wants voter registration probe
Friday, November 08, 2002
A flaw appears to have emerged in the fingerprint-based electronic voter registration system, implemented at great cost, that possibly resulted in the padding of the voters' list used in some constituencies in the October 16 general elections.
Data from the Electoral Office of Jamaica (EOJ) showed significant increases in the size of the electoral roll in some constituencies for the recent elections, compared to those held in December 1997.
The national or average increase in the voters' list over the period was 10 per cent. But there was a 20.23 per cent increase in North East St Ann, followed by St Andrew West Central with a 15 per cent expansion in the number of registered voters. These constituencies were, and still are, represented by Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) candidates Shahine Robinson and Andrew Holness, respectively.
In the absence of any significant upward shift in the population of North East St Ann, the ruling People's National Party (PNP) has alleged that the spike in the voters' list has occurred in that constituency because persons were imported into the area to reside temporarily in order to be enumerated and verified.
The PNP deduces that these 'bogus electors' helped to swell the votes of the JLP's Robinson from 7,797 votes gained in the by-election of March 2001 to over 11,000 votes in the recent elections.
"We have a pretty clear indication that something irregular happened and we want the loopholes to be corrected," Burchell Whiteman, PNP deputy chairman told the Observer yesterday.
He said the PNP had reported the matter to the EOJ as a "matter of principle", with the hope that it will discover how the voter registration system was breached. "There are mechanisms to protect the system against that kind of activity," Whiteman added.
"A wild accusation," is how Olivia Grange, the JLP's spokesperson, responded to the PNP's allegation. She said the party, assisted by its affiliate, Generation 2000, had embarked on a push to register voters ahead of the elections, which accounts for the phenomenal increase in the voters' list in several constituencies.
"We pushed and told our candidates to get people enumerated," explained Grange. "Shahine's enumeration process was fantastic; she did an excellent job in enumerating persons in her constituency," added Grange.
Other constituencies showing above average increase in registered voters include: Clarendon South Eastern - 13.2 per cent (JLP's Ruddy Spencer); St Andrew East Rural - 13.9 per cent (JLP's Joseph Hibbert); St Andrew East Central - 14.5 per cent (PNP's Peter Phillips) and St James Northwest - 14.3 per cent (JLP's Horace Chang).
Meantime, Neville Graham, EOJ spokesman, said the Electoral Office will look into the allegations made by the PNP.