BY KIMMO MATTHEWS & ALPHEA SAUNDERS Observer staff reporters
MORE than 50 per cent of police, soldiers and election day workers voted yesterday ahead of Thursday’s general election.
Director of Elections Orrette Fisher said final figures on the turnout would, however, not be available until today. He maintained, however, that, it has been a very good day as far as reports [received are concerned]”.
There were 10,041 police personnel, 26,498 election day workers, and 2,569 soldiers on the list for yesterday’s voting. The law allows them to vote three days before the rest of the population to ensure their availability for election day duties.
By all accounts, yesterday’s voting took place without event, according to the Electoral Office of Jamaica, but there were on-the-ground reports of some persons being unable to exercise their franchise because their names were not on the lists.
“If for some reason there was a soldier or police who was overlooked in terms of names added to the list, then it means they would vote on Thursday,” Fisher told theJamaica Observer at the close of voting yesterday.
“It means their name would be on the regular [voters’] list. When we got the list from the [Police] High Command and the head of the military and there were names that were not included, then their names would remain on the regular list and that’s the list they would vote on,” the electoral boss said.
In the meantime, the large number of police and soldiers who yesterday came out to cast their votes said they had closely reviewed policies that the country’s two major political parties had put forward before they made their decision about who they wanted to lead them for the next four to five years.
Some members of the security forces, who identified themselves as first-time voters, said that despite all the political hype and talk they did not make their decision based on emotions, but were determined to set an example for other Jamaicans to follow.
“I, for one, was a person who made my decision… on the policies and the plans that the political parties have to go forward,” said a male member of the Jamaica Defence Force (JDF).
One female soldier, who said she was a first-time voter, said for her it was about the plans the parties had put forward to lead her into the future.
“Listen, I am a young person [and] the decision I make now will affect me over the next four years, so I had to look closely at what both parties had to offer,” she said.
The two were part of the large number of military personnel who came out to cast their vote at Up Park Camp, the headquarters of the JDF.
“Voting at this location began on time and without incident,” said Major Denston Smalling when our news team visited Up Park Camp.
At Harman Barracks where a number of policemen and women voted, there were reports that polling stations opened seven minutes past the 8:00 am schedule.
“Separate and apart from the late start, things progressed smoothly,” said Vernon Duncan, returning officer at Harman Barracks.
Meanwhile, at the Denham Town Police Station Deputy Superintendent George McDonald, the officer in charge of operations for the West Kingston Division, said the voting process progressed well during the day.
Police officers were also out early at the Elletson Road Police Station to cast their ballots.
“Right now I am happy to be here; it was a case where I was not planning to vote but today I have decided otherwise,” said one of the officers at that station.