Displaced Abaconians should get special voting consideration, says MP

Displaced Abaconians should get special voting consideration, says MP
Central and South Abaco MP James Albury.

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Central and South Abaco MP James Albury has suggested a special allowance be made for displaced Abaconian storm victims to allow them to be registered to vote in Abaco in the next general election.

Hundreds of families were displaced as a result of Hurricane Dorian last September.

The pace of recovery, rebuilding and the return of displaced residents remains slow.

Albury was asked what he expects for displaced Abaconians, who may wish to return to the island, but have not yet done so when a general election is called.

He said though he was not sure how such a special voting consideration would work, “it is something that I hope to see happen”.

“…There are so many Abaconians in New Providence, Eleuthera and other islands whose intent is to return back,” Albury told Eyewitness News.

“They do intend to return back, but they might not be in a financial position to do that yet.

“Now, as far as the legal side of it, I would have to be advised by the attorney general and the parliamentary registrar as to how a system like that can work.

“But it does seem a little unfair to me; you’re from Abaco; you’ve been displaced; you’re waiting on your home to be rebuilt or you’re waiting on some stability or you’re waiting on whatever the case may be — to be able to cast a vote in an area which you consider yourself from, and that you plan to live in — it would be difficult, but not impossible.”

Albury acknowledged there might be a challenge with non-Abaconian residents seeking to cast their ballots in Abaco.

According to the Parliamentary Registration Act, a resident is entitled to be registered as a voter in a constituency if they are living there, and have been living there for a period of three months.

If that resident has moved to another constituency for three months or more, but less than six months, he or she can choose which constituency to vote in.

The government and parliamentary commissioner have been exploring maintaining the existing register, thereby creating a permanent register, to reduce the number of people seeking to register for the next election amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The decision would require a change in law.

It is unclear whether this would affect provisions for residents who have moved.

As it relates to maintaining the existing voter’s register, Albury said there is concern about low voter turnout, especially if COVID-19 persists around the time of the election, and the measure could be “helpful for people”.

“It’s a few different ideas being toyed around with,” the MP said.

“I don’t want to speak too much out of turn, but I think there are some smart ways we can do it to where it won’t be a burden on the majority of the people, and hopefully we can avoid low registration from COVID.”

About Royston Jones Jr.

Royston Jones Jr. is a senior digital reporter and occasional TV news anchor at Eyewitness News. Since joining Eyewitness News as a digital reporter in 2018, he has done both digital and broadcast reporting, notably providing the electoral analysis for Eyewitness News’ inaugural election night coverage, “Decision Now 2021”.