Opposition leader says voters impacted by Dorian should be allowed to transfer registration by affidavit
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) Leader Philip Brave Davis yesterday encouraged all eligible citizens to register to vote today, asserting all signs point to Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis ringing the bell for the next general election this week.
During a press conference at the PLP headquarters, Davis said: “All signs point to the bell being rung this week.
“Ballot boxes have arrived in the Family Islands, FNM (Free National Movement) signs are being moved around the country, preparations for the advanced poll are well underway, embassies abroad have been notified and the speaker of the House has pointed to Tuesday as the date Parliament will be dissolved.
“If the bell is rung on Tuesday, that leaves only tomorrow, Monday the 19th of July, to register to vote or to transfer your registration if you have moved from one constituency to another.
“I want to emphasize how critical it is that every Bahamian [has] a fair opportunity to vote, with no undue burden placed on them as they exercise this most fundamental right of citizens in a democracy.”
Davis said the prime minister has a special obligation to ensure a fair electoral and registration process.
The PLP leader was critical of the prime minister’s repeated assurance that the next general election is not due to be called until May 2022, for it to now be potentially called ten or nine months early.
He also criticized the prime minister for his failure to implement fixed election dates, a key campaign promise of the FNM that Davis said was one of many broken by the governing party.
He said: “In this campaign, he is playing games with the timing — games that are deceptive and disrespectful to voters.”
When asked about the possibility of an early election over the weekend, a date the prime minister has sole discretion over, Minnis said he “always prepares at least once year in advance” but “in the event things should change, we’re ready”.
According to Davis, the FNM has spent significant time, energy and funds promoting itself through propaganda, but only a fraction of that has gone into providing Bahamians with the necessary information about the registration process.
“Third, because of the stalled reconstruction after Dorian and because of the unemployment crisis, we have a very large number of voters who have changed constituencies, in many cases moving from one island to another,” Davis said.
“Many people have moved in with family or friends as rent or mortgages became impossible to afford without steady employment.
“In many of these cases, the voter does not have a utility bill or a lease in their name.
“They must be allowed to transfer their registration by swearing an affidavit that they reside at a particular address.
“New voters are able to register with an affidavit; voters who have moved should be granted the same ability to register at their new address.”
Davis called on the parliamentary commissioner to ensure everyone who wishes to register can do so without any “unjustifiable difficulty”.
As of June 30, there were over 191,000 people registered, including 30,511 on Grand Bahama and 28,181 on the Family Islands.
There have been more than 16,000 new registrants since the last general election.
There were 181,000 registered voters in the 2017 General Election, with a voter turnout of around 88 percent.