With the advanced poll set for Thursday, Minister of Health Renward Wells said yesterday that the government is exploring ways to allow individuals in quarantine to vote.
However, he emphasized that no final decision had been made yet and health officials have strongly recommended that those people not be permitted to cast their ballots.
“The government is looking at this,” Wells told reporters outside Cabinet.
“We understand the issues of the constitutionality and folks wanting to exercise their rights. And so, a discussion is going to be had on the recommendation because the health professionals did send forward options.
“I’m not going to speak to those options, but their definitive recommendation to the government was that these persons not be allowed to vote.
“But the government has come back and said, ‘But if we do allow them to vote, give us an idea as to how best this can take place’.”
Wells added, “It’s still under discussion, but I can say that health professionals in the Ministry of Health, the ones who basically make recommendations, are recommending to the government that those persons not, N-O-T, not be allowed to vote.”
On Monday, the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) threatened legal action should quarantined individuals be prevented from voting in the general election.
Last week Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, who has the responsibility for elections, strongly suggested that people in quarantine would not be permitted to vote.
Asked to respond to the PLP’s threat yesterday, Dames said he will not get into any “political posturing”, but insisted that all registered voters will be able to vote come election day.
However, he later said that the ultimate decision will depend on the recommendation of health officials.
“As we would have said from the beginning, every voting Bahamian will have the right to vote come election day, whether it’s the advanced poll or any other poll,” he said.
“And so, I’m not going to get into the back and forth with the Progressive Liberal Party.”
He added, “I’ve made it clear over and over and over again, this is a responsible government.
“We will make decisions in the best interest of the Bahamian people.
“As we were saying from the beginning … every voting Bahamian will have the right to exercise their constitutional rights.
“And that is one of the reasons why we would have made amendments to the legislation to ensure that that happens, and it happens in a very responsible way.”
When pressed, however, on whether he was saying that people with COVID will be able to vote, Dames said no decision has been made on the matter.
“I’m saying we will be guided by the health officials, but we understand that voting is very important for all of us, but we will be guided by the health officials,” he said.
“The Parliamentary Registration Department is taking the necessary action and steps to ensure that the voting environment come advanced poll day and election day is as safe as possible.”
For weeks now, The Bahamas has been struggling with the worst surge in COVID cases, hospitalizations, and deaths since the start of the pandemic.
While the Ministry of Health has not provided the public with contact tracing data in the third wave, which would give insight into the average number of close contacts those who are COVID-positive have been found to have, The Bahamas has been regularly confirming more than 100 new cases each day.
As of Monday, there were 3,396 active COVID cases. Wells said around 3,000 contacts of COVID positive individuals are also in quarantine.
The numbers indicate that thousands of voters could be disenfranchised if they are not permitted to cast their ballots.