Minister of National Security Marvin Dames yesterday predicted that nearly 40,000 people will participate in early voting whenever the next election is called.
“In 2017, we had in excess of 3,000 persons participating in the advanced poll but due to the amendments in the act, when you have senior citizens participating as well, we can expect to see anywhere close to 40,000, and so you look at the comparison,” Dames said.
“So we have to look at the number of centers. We have to ensure that our operations team – behind the scenes – is in place and we’re also looking at introducing this technology that will make the job much easier.
“The days of handwriting everything is cumbersome. It’s antiquated and we’re hoping for this advanced poll, whenever the prime minister decides to call the election, that we will have technology driving the results and the outcome.”
He said the government wants to avoid chaotic early voting like what took place ahead of the 2017 general election.
During that advanced poll, only one site was open. Many voters waited for up to five hours to vote or were turned away because their names were not on the register.
Dames said he continues to remind the parliamentary commissioner and his team of this because “we certainly don’t want to see a recurrence of that”.
He said the government is aiming to ensure that “these are the best-executed elections in our history”.
The next election is due in May 2022.
However, in recent months, there has been mounting speculation that it will be called early.
Over the weekend, Speaker of the House Halson Moultrie predicted that Parliament would be dissolved as early as yesterday.
That did not happen.
On Sunday, Progressive Liberal Party Leader Philip Brave Davis said that “all signs point to the bell being rung this week”.
The following day, despite the prime minister’s dismissal of Davis’ comments, unregistered voters rushed to registration sites. Some individuals were forced to stand on lengthy lines well into the night.
Dames said yesterday that Parliamentary Registration Department workers were “inundated” by the rush.
“I had conversations with the parliamentary commissioner all through the day, as a matter of fact late into the evening,” he said.
“They had to extend their hours. I think when I spoke to him it was sometime after nine last night and he and his team were still in office. They still had their satellite offices open not only in New Providence but in Grand Bahama as well, to accommodate a large number of persons who showed up yesterday.”
When asked if he believes that the speculation about an early election contributed to the surge in registrations, Dames replied, “I think there were some premature pronouncements made the day before. I believe that was responsible for triggering this large number of persons and so they had to adjust.
“We did plan for social distancing and we have our teams in place to ensure that persons are adhering to the orders and are keeping the necessary distance. Of course, this was out of the blue and hence today, if those numbers do show up again, you will see much better organization and planning around that.”
He advised the public to “be calm and relaxed and not give in to individuals panicking members of the public”.
Dames reiterated that the prime minister is the only person who knows the date of the next election.
“So we all await when he decides the date of the election [and] we will all be ready and prepared,” he said.