How Does The Electoral Process Work?

download (1)
An election day worker loads empty ballot boxes into a truck ahead of the big day

Jamaicans went to the polls last Thursday to elect a new government, and the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) eked out a narrow 33-30 victory over the People’s National Party (PNP). However, we are now awaiting the results from the official recount or final count, and one change has already been made, narrowing the JLP’s margin of victory to 32-31.

Recounting is done following all elections. However, it takes on great significance when the margin of victory is narrow, which is the case right now. There have been many questions about how the electoral process works after the ballots have been cast, so we consulted the Representation of the People Act (ROPA) to find some answers. See below:

What happens after the polls close?

According to Section 44 of the ROPA,

“In the presence and in full view of the poll clerk and the candidates or their agents, and if the candidates or any of them are absent, then in the presence of such as are present, and of at least two electors if none of the candidates are represented, the presiding officer shall, in the following order,

  1. count the number of voters whose names appear in the poll book as having voted and make an entry thereof on the line immediately below the name of the voter who voted last, thus: “The number of voters who voted at this election in this polling station is” (stating the number), and sign his name thereto;
  2. count the spoiled ballot papers, if any; place them in the special envelope supplied for that purpose and indicate thereon the number of such spoiled ballot papers and seal it up;
  3. count the unused ballot papers undetached from the books of ballot papers, place them with all the stubs of all used ballots in the special envelope supplied for that purpose and indicate thereon the number of such unused ballot papers;
  4. check the number of ballot papers supplied by the returning officer against the number of spoiled ballot papers, if any, the number of unused ballot papers and the number of voters whose names appear in the poll book as having voted, in order to ascertain that all ballot papers are accounted for;
  5. open the ballot box and empty its contents upon a table;
  6. count the number of votes given to each candidate on one of the tally sheets supplied, giving full opportunity to those present to examine each ballot paper. The poll clerk and not less than two witnesses shall be supplied with a tally sheet upon which they may keep their own score, as each vote is called out by the presiding officer

What constitutes a rejected ballot?

A rejected ballot paper means one which has been handed by the presiding officer to an elector to cast his vote but which, at the close of the poll, has been found in the ballot box unmarked or so improperly marked that, in the opinion of the presiding officer or returning officer, it cannot be counted. according to Section 44 of the ROPA, a ballot must be rejected if:

  1. it was not supplied to the elector (voter) by the presiding officer,
  2. it has not been marked for any candidate,
  3. votes have been given for more than one candidate, or
  4. there is any writing or mark by which the voter could be identified, other than the numbering by the presiding officer.

What constitutes a spoiled ballot?

A spoiled ballot paper means one which, on polling day, has not been deposited in the ballot box, but has been found by the presiding officer to be soiled or improperly printed, or which has been handed by the presiding officer to an elector to cast his vote, and:

  1. has been spoiled in marking by the elector; and
  2. has been handed back to the presiding officer and exchanged for another.