Bill seeks to establish permanent voter register

Bill seeks to establish permanent voter register

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — A new bill tabled in the House of Assembly yesterday seeks to establish a continuous register of voters from the last general election.

The Parliamentary Election (Amendment) Bill, 2020, which was tabled by Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, would effectively abolish the quinquennial register and make way for the continuous register of voters that would evolve each election cycle with the continuous addition of new voters, transfers and removal of those who have died.

Debate on the bill will begin next Monday, according to Leader of Government Business Renward Wells.

“A person registered as a voter entitled to vote at an election on the current register shall remain registered as a voter entitled to vote at an election on the continuous register unless his name is removed from the register by the parliamentary commissioner,” the bill reads.

According to the bill, the registrar general shall provide data of all individuals who have died at intervals of no more than three months.

The parliamentary commissioner would be authorized to access all registers and other records of births and deaths, required to be kept under the Births and Deaths Registration Act, and the registrar general shall provide the commissioner with a copy of any register or other record “as and when the parliamentary commissioner may require”.

The act provides for all undertakers, morticians and directors of funeral homes to provide at the end of each month a list of all people whom they buried during the preceding month.

The director of national insurance and the commissioner of corrections would also be required to provide data of deceased individuals every three months.

“The parliamentary commissioner shall investigate, verify and remove from the register of voters, the names of persons who are deceased, serving a term of imprisonment or under a sentence of death, and where a writ of election is issued within 90 days of the commissioner receiving the list under section 13A, the commissioner may, where time does not permit for investigation, verification and removal, make a notation beside the name of the persons on the register whom he believes, based on the lists submitted, to be deceased, serving a term of imprisonment or under a sentence of death.”

The amendment would also introduce a biometric voter’s card, replacing the traditional paper card.

All voters’ cards and corresponding counterfoils from the current register shall continue to be valid as if prepared in connection with the continuous register.

In each quarter, no later than the fourteenth day of the last month of the period, the parliamentary commissioner shall prepare and make open for inspection a copy of all parts of the register relating to all constituencies in The Bahamas.

When new constituencies are established or the boundaries of an existing constituency have been altered, the parliamentary commissioner shall make the relevant alterations and corrections to the register of voters as may be needed.

A registered voter would not be required to re-register by reconstitution of the boundaries, however, the commissioner may from time to time call upon registered voters to alter or correct their counterfoils of the voters’ cards.

A registered voter or person entitled to vote, aged 65 and older, would be considered a special voter and be allowed to vote in the advanced poll.