RIGHT TO VOTE?: Prisoners on remand should be able to register to vote, asserts attorney

RIGHT TO VOTE?: Prisoners on remand should be able to register to vote, asserts attorney

Munroe: Inmates innocent until proven guilty “but nobody is in the prison registering people to vote”

NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Attorney Wayne Munroe, QC, has suggested that individuals on remand at the Bahamas Department of Correctional Services (BDOCS) should be given an opportunity to register to vote.

In a recent interview with Eyewitness News, Munroe sought to explain that individuals on bail and those currently being held on remand at the Fox Hill facility could face voter disenfranchisement if not allowed to register for the upcoming general election.

Wayne Munroe, QC.

“If you’re remanded in custody and you’re not serving custody, you have the right to vote,” Munroe said.

“You could be arrested tomorrow and remanded in custody and you plead not guilty; that doesn’t take away your right to vote because you are presumed innocent.

“But nobody is in the prison registering people to vote and no provision is made for persons in the prison who are still innocent because they are only remanded, and there should be.”

Munroe noted that while the Parliamentary Registration Department does not register inmates at the prison, the department has an “obligation” to do so because there are people there who are not serving sentences and who are eligible to vote.

“It’s like we tell them they leave their rights at the door of the prison, which is untrue, especially if you are only on remand, because you can be on remand for three or five years and then be acquitted,” he said.

According to Act 10 Section (2) of the Parliamentary Election Act (2020), a person shall be deemed to be suffering from legal incapacity and shall not be entitled to vote in any election “while he is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) imposed by any court in The Bahamas, or is under sentence of death imposed by any such court, or is suffering imprisonment in lieu of the execution of such sentence; or while he is deemed to be a lunatic or of unsound mind by future of any finding or declaration under any Act”.

Lavado Duncanson. (BIS PHOTO/ERIC ROSE)

Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Lavado Duncanson explained to Eyewitness News that the act is clear on how the matter is to be dealt with.

He pointed to the latest amendments of the act, which speak to the responsibilities of the prison commissioner to provide statistics to the Parliamentary Registration Department (PRD).

Duncanson noted that the PRD will work within these guidelines, as it relates to individuals in prison, but did not indicate whether the department is minded to set up voter registration at the facility.

The act does not indicate how individuals in prison who have yet to be sentenced should be dealt with.

As part of the amendment to the act, Article 13 A now stipulates that the commissioner of corrections shall, at intervals of three months, transmit to the parliamentary commissioner a list of the names, addresses and dates of birth of all adult convicted persons –– serving a term of imprisonment, stating the exact term of imprisonment, the date when the term began and the date when the term of imprisonment is expected to end; and all prisoners under a sentence of death.

Duncanson has urged individuals who may have challenges with their voter’s card to visit a registration center or the PRD on Farrington Road to seek assistance.