Thursday, 16 April 2015

Write-In Candidates for Jamaica

A write-in candidate is one in an election whose name does not appear on the ballot but for whom voters may vote nonetheless by writing in the person's name on election day.

Some US States allow voters to paste a sticker with the name of a candidate they perceived should have been given the opportunity to contest the election. Write-in candidates rarely win, and votes are often cast for ineligible people or even fictional characters. Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy are counted among those who have won by write-in votes.

Write-in candidates have also been elected in Sweden, Brazil and Ecuador among other countries.

In recent times, we have seen ‘in-fighting’ within Jamaican political parties as incumbents feel threaten by a challenge, especially if the incumbent was thrown into the constituency for the sake of winning a seat and/ fails to perform. We have seen the preference of the Jamaican people to be represented by ‘one of their own’, someone they trust and have a rapport with either through family and committed community advocate and leadership. The main political has largely ignored the plight of the people, and instead stimulate loyalist thinking – one size, fit all.

The People's Representative

Currently the political scuffle within the JLP between MP Gregory Mair and Sharon-Hay Webster, which sees establishment seat filler against constituency native and people’s likely preference. The initial statements suggest the fear of Mair ‘losing power’ – such thinking continues to hamper our governance and democratic development as the ability to perform and represent is linked with being “in power” which is also a constitution reform issue that should give greater role and muscle to government opposition and the people.

The Jamaican electoral system should consider if not actual law, but absorb the spirit of write-in and encourage independent candidates. As I believe that political representatives put forward as the people's representative of whichever political party should have years of hard work on the ground, should be familiar with the development plans and can understand the needs of the constituency better than any new-comer politician.

This could stir more participation within the democratic process – allowing people to suggest a preferred choice creates some level of trust and satisfaction.