I am watching (actually more listening than watching) the US Presidential debates and I have decided that I need to write this blog post that is long overdue.
A few weeks ago, the deadline for being listed on the next voters list passed. The last day to get your name on the list was a Saturday and so the Electoral Offices were open. From the description of the blog you will know that I am in my twenties, late twenties to be more specific and I have never registered to vote. For the most part this is because I am not enamored with either of the main political parties. I feel like it is a case of six a one and half a dozen of the other and not in a positive sense. There is no politician that I would vote for in either party at present. From all reports (all second hand so who really knows) Damion Crawford is trying to change the status quo and for this I applaud him but I do not live in his constituency and have not spoken to anyone who does so I do not really know now do I. I am not trying to be negative do not get me wrong, but I am writing he said/she said and I just want to make it clear.
So back to this business of registering to vote. In Jamaica, the voters list is updated twice per year. You can only register, as far as I know, at an office of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica. What I am not sure about is whether you can register at an office that is not in your constituency. When you go to get registered, the persons there fill out a form which basically has questions about you, your address, date of birth, some info about your parents, then you sign then they do finger prints (yup now it’s not only the Americans who have my finger prints on file, so there goes my plans to become a super hero as I am too absent minded to remember to wear gloves), and they snap a picture of you for your ID. Then comes the fun part, they have to verify your address. They only have a certain window in which to do it and you get three attempts, if they come by your house and for whatever reason you are never there when they arrive, you do not get on the voters list. I think that one of the reasons why our society is the way that it is, is because we keep operating off the premise that people instinctively do the wrong thing or want to swindle or trick you so we have put in place all these strictures that basically make it annoying for the majority of the population who are law abiding citizens and have never contemplated anything below board. But I digress, I thought I would have had a difficulty with the verification exercise, as my life is pretty hectic right now and I am all over the place. However, I received a phone call the day after from the person carrying the verification exercise to determine if I was home. So luckily for me, I crossed the verification exercise. What I am not sure about is whether the individual who carries out the verification exercise looks at the photo they took at the office before he/she goes out. It did not seem that way to me and if that is not the case then all you need is someone to forge your signature who will be at the address you gave. You do not need to be there because they will not know it is not you so I really hope that is not the case. So I will be getting my id in December, but in order to get said ID I need to produce a receipt they gave me at the office. By the time the IDs will be ready it will be months since I got the receipt, so I only hope it does not get put up too carefully.
Having experienced the Jamaican process, I got interested in how the process is carried out in other countries. Some states in the US offer online registration; I wish they had this here. You can also get registered at the Department of Motor Vehicles or via mail. Deadlines for registration in order to be able to vote in a particular election vary by state.
In some countries like Finland and Norway, it is automatic based on the national population register. At birth you are assigned a register ID and one has to advise the Registrar of any changes in address. Close to an election a notification is mailed to registered individuals telling them about the election and where to vote. This is a system I could definitely work with.
In Australia, voter registration is mandatory for all citizens 18 years of age or above.
I am sure there are ways to improve our system if we really want to and I think that a drive should be embarked on to get everybody eligible to register to vote. Go to the people instead of waiting on the people to come to you.
So to conclude, I have to look at the upsides of becoming an eligible voter. You can run for office and get people to vote for you. We are the government since we are the ones who voted for the people who are now the government, and they need to answer to us. We very infrequently exercise this right so my advice is to become the change and run for office. The opportunity for jury duty is available. Call me crazy but I actually want to go on jury duty. I want to do my part to clear the backlog and I think it would be cool (cool but frustrating though since we are talking about Jamaica’s court system). Plus I would be fodder for the blog!