700 police officers, along with RBDF and COVID-19 Enforcement Unit manning the polls
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — After troubleshooting a myriad of challenges seen at the Advance Polls, Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Lavado Duncanson said yesterday that there is a need to remain flexible with the process as thousands of Bahamians head to the polls to cast their ballots for the next government of The Bahamas.
The advanced polls last week saw chaos erupt at several of the stations, little to no adherence to COVID-19 social distancing protocols, no marking or indications of proper protocols, disorganization, and limited rooms at polling stations for voters to cast their ballots which resulted in bottlenecking.
There was also a lack of provisions to accommodate the disabled and elderly — with people 65-years or older permitted to vote for the first time in the early polls.
However, officials said those issues have been addressed and protocols are in place to ensure a safe and “free and fair” election.
Duncanson, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, who has responsibility for elections, along with a delegation of officials from the Parliamentary Registration Department, Royal Bahamas Police Force, and Royal Bahamas Defence Force toured one of the polling stations that will be used in today’s polls.
Ask how confident officials are that today’s process will go as smooth as possible, Duncason said, “We are aware that adjustments throughout this entire process has been mandatory”.
“We find ourselves as a nation and certainly as a global community where circumstances beyond my control dictate that we make adjustments,” he continued.
“The team that you see standing around, every effort is going into ensuring that the process is as safe as smooth as it can be but this process has taught us that there is the need to remain flexible.”
After weeks of uncertainty, officials have advised that people who have been placed in quarantine or have tested positive for COVID-19 will be allowed to vote and encouraged to return to quarantine/isolation immediately after casting their ballots.
“We find ourselves operating during a time where there may be individuals who are scheduled to be a part of the process but because of circumstances beyond their control, they may not be able to be a part of the process,” Duncason added.
“Over this process, we have made adjustments, we have put in place replacements and the intent is to assure that God willing on tomorrow, there will be a general election in accordance to the Parliamentary Elections Act.”
Among those new protocols: all rooms and walkways outside of the polling rooms should have clear social distancing markings on the floor; all voters, poll workers, and election agents are required to always wear a face mask while in the polling station, covering their nose and mouth, and all polling rooms – which must be 30 feet X 25 feet or larger — should be properly sanitized before and after election day.
Assistant Commissioner of Police Ashton Greenslade advised that just over 700 police officers will be working to ensure voters are able to cast their ballots safely.
Officers will also be assisted by the Royal Bahamas Defence Force and COVID-19 enforcement who will be ensuring COVID-19 protocols are being followed.
Greenslade noted that all polling stations will be manned by a chief superintendent and urged the public to inquire for the senior officer on the ground if they encounter any situation.
It remains unclear whether officials will be enforcing the 9pm curfew on election night as political parties and members of the public seek to celebrate the end result.