Local Government Elections Postponed
Today, government will table a bill in the House of Representatives to postpone the Local Government Elections for at least another 6 months. This is inevitable as today is the deadline for the election.
Local government elections are constitutionally due every 3 years, but it appears to be more of a burden than a requirement.
Councils in the rural parish councils, KSAC (Kingston and St Andrew Corporation) decide their councillors. The councillors then choose their leader, who becomes Mayor. Portmore council is an exception. There, the people vote directly for their Mayor.
It is now a habit to postpone Local Government elections for different reasons. No reason has so far been given for this year’s postponement. Only 5 local government elections have been held in the last 25 years. This is an average of once every 5 years, instead of every 3 years.
No such problems for the General Elections. Everything is done to ensure its success and timeliness. The Members of Parliament and indirectly, the Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition are selected through this election to choose the central government. The leaders of either the JLP or PNP will be Prime Minister or Leader of the Opposition (depending on which party wins), but first, they have to win their seat in the general elections.
Why Not Combine Both Local and General Elections?
The question we ask is: why not combine both elections? Local Government Elections are due once every 3 years and General Elections once every 4 years. Realistically, local government polls are held once every 5 years. Why not keep it at the same time as general elections?
At least then, local elections will be held without postponement and it will almost certainly be held on time. It would therefore not be the burden it is at the moment.
The biggest advantage would be in the cost savings. It takes tens of millions of dollars to fund an election. The country is thinking of ways to save money. this is one way. To make it worse, voter turnout is traditionally very low in the local polls, making it less of a return on investment.
Additionally, the history of both local and general elections show that voters normally follow the same pattern of voting in both. The local elections is usually an indicator of how voters will choose in the general elections. It might therefore be fair to say that having separate elections is a duplication of time, effort and money.
The major change we need to combine both elections is a change in the law. Then, we would just print ballot papers with both sets of candidates (local and general). The cost of keeping both elections could possibly be cut in half. Of course there are other logistics that need considering, but it shouldn’t be hard to have one election instead of two.
Let’s seriously think about it. If not, local government elections will continue to be a bother and a burden.