In spite of a rising number of COVID-19 cases on the Caribbean island, Jamaicans head for the polls today in what many see as decisive legislative elections, convoked three weeks ago by Prime Minister Andrew Holness of the JLP.
The Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ) has reported that 16% of the more than 1.9 million registered voters had already voted by 11 AM local time, four hours after polls opened for the country's 18th parliamentary elections since the granting of universal suffrage in 1944. By 2 PM, the ECJ reported just over 30% of eligible voters had cast their vote, down from 39% at the same time in 2016's general elections.
Jamaica Is Ready to Hold Elections Despite the Pandemic
According to Prime Minister Holness, 126 candidates will be competing for the vote of the Jamaican people, who must comply with the relevant health and safety measures due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jamaica's Health and Wellness Ministry reports 1,374 active (2,683 total) cases of COVID-19 on the island of just under 3 million inhabitants, with 24 deaths and 890 recovered patients.
To vote, Jamaicans must wear masks, wash their hands upon entering the polling place and practice physical distancing, whereas patients confirmed with COVID-19 were able to vote between 4 and 5 PM local time, and had to wear face protectors and protective gowns, as well. At 6PM, confirmed cases' contacts, as well as those in quarantine for being suspicious cases, were able to cast their vote.
Given the short amont of time to campaign and the COVID-19 quarantine measures, political candidates have created their own promotional music videos uploaded to social media; many Jamaicans, however, feel that politicans are setting a bad example, as is the case with Prime Minister Holness, who deleted a campaign video showing himself amidst a large crowd of supporters after receiving harsh criticisms online.
Fears of election violence, not uncommon throughout Jamaican electoral history, have already materialized during today's vote, as police in the coastal town of Lucea, between the cities of Montego Bay and Negril, have cordoned off an area outside the local polling station after a man was shot and killed by armed assailants this afternoon.