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First time voters voice concerns

Some first time voters are discouraged by the lack of progress they see in the country and are not sure if they will vote despite registering.

Some, like College of The Bahamas (COB) freshman Celeste Gibson (18), told The Nassau Guardian last week that they are waiting to see all of the candidates that are running in their areas before making a choice.

Noel Francis, a 19-year-old COB freshman, said “I don’t see any progress in the country, especially the roads.  I am tired of these holes in the roads and I just want them to be finished.”

Crime and education are among the issues the group is most concerned with.

Candace Russell, a 21-year-old COB sophomore, said that as an education major she wants to see the government address some of the issues affecting the school system.  She added, “I have a big issue; this country doesn’t recycle.  I’m looking for any party to come up with some initiatives for recycling.”

Ophir Neymour, a 19-year-old COB sophomore said, “[The] justice system needs to be fixed, murderers and molesters do not stay in jail and we don’t know anything when they get released on bail.  So for all we know, we could be sitting next to a pedophile or murderer and not know.”

The Guardian also spoke with a number of students who have no plans to register to vote.

“I’m not voting because I don’t want to dirty my hands just to say I’m going to vote, especially if I don’t see anyone who supports my views.  The current parties don’t share the issues I share,” said Lynden McIntosh, a COB sophomore.

“If I vote for any of them I would be encouraging them.  They would think that [my vote] is a vote of admiration, not just a vote of discouragement.  If I vote for one particular party just because I don’t see anyone better they won’t take that as ‘oh he voted for us because he doesn’t see anyone better’, they’ll take that as ‘he voted for us because he supports our views’.”

Parliamentary Commissioner Errol Bethel said that around 13 percent of those registered for the upcoming election are first time voters within the 18-25 bracket.  When The Guardian last reported, there were just under 137,000 people registered to vote according the Parliamentary Registration Department.

Member of Parliament (MP) for Fox Hill Fred Mitchell said targeting first time voters is critical to the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

“We are targetting young people because 40 percent of the electorate are under 30,” he said.

“What we plan to do has to do with mobilizing them around social objectives, because many young people are not interested in the more serious aspects of politics.”

When asked about the issue of change that young voters are seeking, Mitchell said that there should not be change just for the sake of change.

“There will be change, but not change to be fashionable.  There are some things that have to be done.  The tax structure has to change.  Our trade regimes have to change – that’s going to mean changes in the way we look at who is entitled to work here and who is not entitled to work here,” he said.

Free National Movement Chairman and MP for Sea Breeze Carl Bethel noted that the Torchbearers Youth Association was established with young and first time voters in mind.  He said its role is not just to attract voters, but those who may wish to join the party and one day serve the country.

“The FNM has shown over its entire history that it provides a clear pathway for those youth who come into the [Torchbearers Youth Association] and serve in its ranks to move up, initially through party offices and ultimately to be given the opportunity to contest constituencies in the elections.

“That is a way in which the party seeks to make tangible its promise to the youth.  The party will continually renew itself by bringing in new blood from the torchbearers [and] also from other sources,” he noted.

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