I was not going to fool around with health protocols in order to vote; I thought things would be better early rather than late. I had my protective items ready: face shield, mask, sanitizer. I had my voter ID; I had my polling card.
Though polling was due to start at 7, I wanted to be early and was arrived before 6.30, in part to check on location and park in good time. As it was, I was met by a policeman and a few JLP outside workers, who wanted to check my polling credentials. In keeping with my previous experience, PNP seemed to have decided that they were going to be less of a presence. I chose to wear neutral colour-navy shirt and taupe shorts 🙂
Once I got to the entry of the polling station, I was 2nd in line, with another senior waiting on a seat. The station was by the loading bay of a supermarket, I was greeted and put into the line for my voting district. A young lady lathered my hands with sanitizer and I stood by area, marked by empty plastic containers. We waited and I watched the workers beavering around, with a very enthusiastic supervisor keeping things in order.
Joking, it was funny to see new COVID-related jobs: temperature checker class 1, sanitizing officer class 2, social distance controller…
I had no problems being located on the polling register—I’d changed districts and knew my new registration was valid, but always want there to be no issues. I was a bit concerned about the ID check, as I am now fully bearded and have hair on my head, while my picture has me fully shaved. But, no problem.
Voting was simple, though communication between presiding officer (PO) and voters will be a problem: the POs will have a hard job as they will try to maintain distance, handle ID cards, explain instructions, etc. They are focused on keeping the distances. If you like sanitation, you’ll get it in ladlefuls. Paper marked, folded, number recorded, and entered into polling box by the PO, and I was good for the ink dip, but one more sanitizer swish, first. Then, it needed to dry. Then, plunge. Done.
So far, I have no concerns: everyone was in masks, though the supervisor had a mask about two-sizes too large that kept slipping under her chin.
First impressions are that people are not voting with trepidation and I suspect that as word spreads that health controls are really being well executed, people will decide that it’s not such a big risk to go to vote. Having voted early, I have missed the crowds, and the numbers were building up fast at my station. As the heat rises, people will have to decide to brave lining up before or after noon. I got through in about 10 minutes, but anywhere over 10 minutes should be expected as voting proceeds, more people are processed, workers get tired, etc.
I’m not going to follow media coverage all day, however, I just tuned in toNationwideRadio, and am hearing that things are not as smooth in some polling areas: one lady arrived at a polling division to find no station! Reports are that the Electoral Commission of Jamaica website crashed; it had slowed because many at the last moment, it seems, decided to check on their eligibility, polling station etc. That might have happened because ID cards have not been reissued for a few years and some may now be concerned—unnecessarily—they have become disenfranchised. Reports are that social distancing is being a problem as crowds grow.
It’ll be interesting to hear and see how things go with the processes in contests for various seats, especially those that are marginal.