Wednesday, Jul 17, 2019
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Three House seats may go

The number of seats in the House of Assembly after the next general election is likely to be reduced from 41 to 38, The Nassau Guardian understands.

Reportedly, two seats will be cut in New Providence and one in Grand Bahama.

The constitution allows for a minimum of 38 constituencies.

It is unclear what the three seats are that are facing the knife, but Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said in Parliament recently that he would not accept any proposal that calls for Bamboo Town to be cut.

The seat is currently held by Branville McCartney, leader of the Democratic National Alliance (DNA), who won as a Free National Movement candidate in 2007 but resigned from the party early this year.

The Boundaries Commission held another meeting yesterday to consider the proposal for boundary cuts.

Speaker of the House Alvin Smith, who chairs the commission, previously said a report will be completed before the end of the year.

The Nassau Guardian now understands that a report from the Boundaries Commission could be concluded by the end of next week.

No final decisions have been made regarding the highly-anticipated Boundaries report.

In political circles, the power to cut boundaries is viewed as an advantage to the governing party.  However, in three of the last four general elections, the party in power that cut the boundaries lost (1992, 2002 and 2007).

As of Monday, 136,615 people were registered to vote, according to the Parliamentary Registration Department.  It is estimated that approximately 160,000 people are eligible to vote.

Voter registration will continue up until the day before the governor general issues the writs of election.  Under the constitution, no one who registers on the day the writs are issued can vote.

After the Boundaries Commission report is official, the Parliamentary Registration Department has to create a register based on the report.

This means that the department has to place all voters into the right constituency — largely considered a massive task.

In 2007, the Boundaries Commission reported by the end of March.

Parliament was dissolved April 4.  The department spent just several days preparing the new register and changing voter’s cards to comply with the Boundaries Commission report.

The department started issuing new voter’s cards on April 10.  In 2007, 150,684 voters were registered to vote.

No adjustments can be made to the register once it officially closes.

The upcoming general election will be the first real test of the effectiveness of the changes outlined in new legislation brought by the Ingraham administration.

The legislation is intended to provide for a more effective electoral process and avoid some of the mistakes that arose during the 2007 general election and the 2010 Elizabeth by-election.

According to the numbers, registration is lower in the inner city than in the lead-up to the 2007 general election.  The higher numbers are in new outskirt areas like south-west New Providence.

Many observers believe that late boundary cuts in 2007 resulted in widespread confusion.

The Ingraham administration in particular heavily criticized the Progressive Liberal Party government for cutting the boundaries so close to the general election.

While on the campaign trail in 2007, Tommy Turnquest (then a senator) said, “Never before in our Bahamas has a government waited so late and took so long to finalize boundaries changes.

“The commission ought to act in a timely fashion so that at least three months should elapse between the adoption of the recommendations by the House of Assembly and Election Day.”

Prime Minister Ingraham has repeatedly spoken of the important role he plays in ensuring that the commission is appointed and reports in a timely fashion.

Ingraham has said one of the more important roles of a prime minister is to ensure free and fair elections.

The Boundaries Commission is constitutionally mandated to ensure as much as possible that the number of voters in every constituency is the same.

In addition to Smith, Commission members are Justice Stephen Isaacs, deputy chairman; Deputy Prime Minister Brent Symonette; National Security Minister Tommy Turnquest and Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador MP Philip Brave Davis.

The Nassau Guardian understands that the Commission will meet again this Friday.

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