Govt. allocates $4.7 million for Parliamentary Department

Govt. allocates $4.7 million for Parliamentary Department

NASSAU, BAHAMAS —  In preparation for the next General Election, the government has allocated $4,700,020 in the 2021/22 fiscal year for the Parliamentary Registration Department.

Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, who has responsibility for elections, made the announcement during his contribution to the 2021/2022 budget debates, warning that the current staff complement of the department is woefully inadequate to properly perform the duties of a modern Parliamentary Registration Department.

“The Parliamentary commissioner has, therefore, prepared a revised organizational structure with established posts from top to bottom,” Dames explained.

“This will enable the agency to provide the quality of service befitting in a modern Bahamas.”

He insisted that for too long the department has been allowed to limp along with a modicum of staff between elections and to ramp up the staff complement with secondments and redeployment of public officers in preparation for general elections.

Dames said this practice is now unsustainable with a permanent register and the department needs a full complement of staff to maintain the register on a daily basis.

“It is my intent to request that the Ministry of Public Service and National Insurance review the proposed structure and, thereafter, the matter will be put forward for Cabinet consideration,” he added.

Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis has continued to shut down speculations that he will call an early election and has previously indicated that his administration will go the full term before calling an election sometime in May 2022.

Various centers have been opened for expanded voter registration exercises on New Providence and Grand Bahama, including for individuals who are not on the 2017 register or who may need to make an address transfer.

As of May, 25, 2021, there were 131,743 voters registered on New Providence; 30,412 on Grand Bahama; and 28,002 on the Family Islands for a total of 190,157 registered voters to date.

There were 181,000 registered voters in the 2017 General Election, with a voter turnout of around 88 percent.

The government passed the Parliamentary Election (Amendment) Bill, 2020, in December, which made the voters’ register from the last general election in The Bahamas a continuous or permanent register.

Only Bahamians who are not on the 2017 Voters’ Register or who have moved to an address different from the one on their current voter’s card need to visit a Parliamentary Registration Centre, to register, or transfer their registration to a new polling division and constituency where they now reside.

There is not an expectation for an influx of people registering before the election is called.

The Parliamentary Registration Department has been actively engaged in cleaning up the now permanent register by removing those who have died since the last general election and registered voters who have transferred from their constituencies.

The department will also expand an enumeration exercise that began last month in parts of the St. Anne’s constituency and Freetown constituency and the East Grand Bahama constituency. 
Dames assured that the public will be informed, in advance, via public service announcements of the constituencies where scrutineers will be conducting their surveys and they will all be uniformed and with a highly visible I.D. badge.
He said under no circumstances will the scrutineer need to enter the house of any resident, however, the voter will be requested to sign an interview form and be given a copy of the form. 

He further underscored the importance of the enumeration exercises as a critical tool that the Parliamentary Department will utilize as part of its work to maintain a credible register.

“The Bahamas will continue to maintain the safe and peaceful transfer of power in government,” Dames said.

“This is mainly due to the credibility of the electoral process and the will of the people.

“Both undergird our democracy which is the third oldest in the western hemisphere

“I, therefore, encourage all Bahamians to continue to participate in this valued process by registering to vote and voting your choice in 2022”.