Bill for permanent voters’ register to be tabled this week

Bill for permanent voters’ register to be tabled this week

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Draft legislation to create a permanent voter’s register will be brought to Parliament on Wednesday or next week, Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis announced yesterday.

“I think we’re bringing the bill to Parliament, I believe this week, if not this week, definitely by next week,” he told reporters.

“But I am hoping we’d be able to table it on Wednesday.

“This bill would keep the names of the register permanent and only new names are added, and at the same time throughout the year, you can purge the register in terms of those individuals who have died or moved to some other destination — outside the country, live abroad, etc.

“So, you’ll have a permanent register and just continuous addition.

“It’ll also give us an opportunity [and] give the Bahamian populous an opportunity to continue an assessment of the list and you won’t have any aberrant additions.”

In a recent interview with Eyewitness News, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said the government was finalizing its consultative process on voter registration and expected to soon advise the public of the recommended changes to the process.

Dames, who has ministerial responsibility for election, has acknowledged there is a “race against the clock”.

He has stressed that no one will be disenfranchised by any changes the government makes.

“As I said before, I think the times that we are living in dictate certainly as leaders for us to be smarter, more responsible.

“We’re having to take into consideration the health and safety of the persons around us and our own.

“And so, this is extremely important. COVID is not going anywhere anytime soon and so, as leaders, we have a responsibility to ensure that we do the right things for our people and ourselves, and our families.”

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has caused delays to the start of the national voters’ registration exercise.

It was originally scheduled for July.

Parliamentary Commissioner Philip Turner recommended to the government that it amend the Parliamentary Elections Act to replace the five-year voters’ register with a permanent or continuous register.

Voter turnout in the last general election was 88 percent with 160,409 registered voters casting their ballots.

A total of 181,543 people registered to vote.

Other jurisdictions have implemented alternatives to in-person registering and voting, using remote technologies such as online registration and voting by mail.

The next general election in The Bahamas must be held no later than May 2022.