STATEMENT| We are so encouraged by how many Bahamians have lined up at registration centres over the last two days. It is clear that Bahamians are ready to participate in the upcoming elections and have their voices heard.
As a country, we can be justifiably proud of our history of high voter turnout.
However, the legacy of fair elections with high turnout is now being threatened by the current government.
In the last few days, we have had a flood of reports from voters who describe the difficulties they are facing as they attempt to transfer their registration because they have moved since 2017.
The burdens placed by this government on voters who were registered to vote in previous elections, but have now moved to a new polling division or constituency, are so heavy as to exclude a large number of Bahamian voters from the process.
We have made our concerns known on multiple occasions.
We are not talking about a small number of voters. We are talking about thousands – thousands displaced by Dorian, and thousands who have lost jobs during the lockdowns and therefore been forced to change their living arrangements. Haven’t they been through enough?
Let me give you an example. A voter who left Abaco or Grand Bahama after Dorian and moved to New Providence, and does not have their 2017 voter ID, should, according to this government, file a police report in their original constituency, before they attempt to register to vote in New Providence. So this voter is being asked to get a negative PCR test, buy a travel visa, and fly to Abaco or Grand Bahama in order to file a police report. They are supposed to do this in the middle of an economic crisis and a fourth wave of COVID cases.
This makes no sense. The only possible goal here by the government can be to exclude these voters from the process.
The right to vote is fundamental in a democracy.
The government must act to lift these burdensome requirements immediately.
If you can swear by affidavit to your current address as a first-time voter, you should be able to do the same if you are transferring your registration.
If the government does not change these requirements, the only possible conclusion is that they are deliberately acting to exclude from the vote those Bahamians who have been displaced by Dorian or by unemployment caused by the lockdowns.