As Bahamians travel to polling stations nationwide to select the country’s next government today, there is much more to consider about the nationwide turnout than perfectly reasonable COVID-19 concerns.
This is the first general election in living memory where Bahamians will be emerging from a patchwork of survival and turmoil brought about by successive and unprecedented disasters, to exercise their constitutional right at the polls.
At the polls will be those whose lives and livelihoods have been turned upside down by Hurricane Dorian and COVID-19, and those who struggle daily to keep their head above water in the midst of limited job opportunities, a devastated economy, and record consumer prices that make putting food on one’s table and clothes on one’s back a painfully daunting task.
At the polls will be mothers and fathers who carry into the voting booth the weight of households wracked by financial insecurity, the pressures of virtual schooling, and the angst of uncertainty about present goals and future prospects.
Women, who turn out to the polls in higher numbers than their male counterparts, have borne the brunt of record unemployment this term, together with young Bahamians whose double digit jobless rate continued on an upward trajectory up to the country’s last labor force survey report in May 2019.
A very trying time for the business community given historic pressures of COVID-19, many stressed workers and business owners will be represented at the polls, together with disgruntled public sector employees who maintain that insufficient attention has been paid to their concerns.
Most notable among the categories of workers who are bowed but not broken are our healthcare workers, for whom there is no rest for the weary, and little appetite for post-election celebrations certain to draw crowds too passionate to observe safety protocols.
In the 2017 general election, the largest registered voter bloc was represented by Bahamians aged 18 to 25.
While distribution data for the now permanent register of voters were not made available prior to today’s election, what is known is that many young people are disillusioned with the political process, viewing it as one wherein the youth voice is neither valued nor genuinely sought after.
Many are the frustrations on the hearts of those who will vote today, but vote they shall, because of a desire for change, a sense of civic duty, and a comfort in knowing that if at any other time the voice of the people is disregarded, it cannot be ignored on Election Day.
It is on this occasion where Bahamians feel most powerful, but it is equally as important for the citizenry to understand that choosing a government is but one piece of the elaborate puzzle of nation building, whose assembling requires a bona fide “all hands on deck” approach.
There are still too many Bahamians who believe that electing the government of their choice should, in and of itself, solve the nation’s problems.
While government’s role is indispensable, no government can do the work of building a better Bahamas alone.
Caustic rhetoric on the campaign trail often serves to foment longstanding divisions within the society – which is precisely the opposite condition required for an incoming government to effectively carry out its promised objectives.
After the votes are counted and a winner is declared this evening, the task of nation building begins – an undertaking that must incorporate all Bahamians regardless of political affiliation or social standing.
In the face of historic obstacles, the vibrance of our democracy is being demonstrated at the polls today, making this election both a watershed and proud moment for voters who would not be deterred by incredible hardships.
We encourage voters to be diligent in adhering to safety protocols at the polls, so as to protect each other in the midst of the country’s ongoing and deadly COVID-19 surge.
On election night, there is both jubilation and disappointment, but we implore Bahamians to govern themselves, so that today’s elections can be both safe and peaceful for all.
After today, we must work, and work together to make The Bahamas what it needs to be, and has the potential to become.