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Govt should find ‘safe’ way for quarantined individuals to vote, CPSA head says 

Consultant Physicians Staff Association President Dr. Sabriquet Pinder-Butler said yesterday the government needs to find a safe way to allow quarantined voters to cast ballots during this week’s advanced poll and next week’s general election.

She said quarantined individuals should stay properly quarantined.

“However, I do think that perhaps, if it is that they are able to participate in the voting process, that we may need to look at other means for allowing them to participate, such as other forms of technology or being able to allow someone else to bring the ballot on their behalf or some other mode other than the usual or customary mode which we’re accustomed to where everyone comes to the same place,” Pinder-Butler said.

“That certainly would not be safe for any of us.”

She said the government should have thought about what will happen to quarantined voters prior to holding an early election.

Section 49(C) of the Parliamentary Elections Act provides that individuals who are registered to vote in a constituency may vote as a special voter in the advanced poll under certain circumstances, including “illness” or “infirmity”.

However, ill voters would still be required to vote in person, albeit on an earlier date.

Last week, Minister of National Security Marvin Dames, who has responsibility for elections, strongly suggested that quarantined voters will not be able to vote in the election.

“You know, it’s straightforward,” he said. 

“What is quarantine? Quarantine is quarantine. If someone has COVID and they’re quarantined, they’re quarantined for a reason and, you know, I mean, you have people who are incarcerated on election day. You have people who are hospitalized on election day.

“You have people who are out of the country on election day. And they may be registered voters, but they can’t vote because of the circumstances. And so, we’ll see.”

Minister of Health Renward Wells said that while he could not say what the final decision is, health officials have recommended that quarantined individuals not be allowed to vote.

“From the Ministry of Health standpoint, we’re taking the position that they probably will not be able to vote,” he said.

“But again, as I have always said, that has to come from the prime minister via the Cabinet of The Bahamas.

“But there are recommendations in that regard by health personnel. And think about it now. How are you going to let someone who is in quarantine, who has the potential to infect other persons, to go out into a polling station?”

Pinder-Butler said yesterday that it may be difficult to prevent quarantined voters from casting ballots.

“We know there are people who are supposed to be in quarantine who come out of quarantine,” she said.

“We already know that that potentially happens, so imagine on election day when persons would perhaps have been waiting for this moment and they’re not able to participate. If we don’t have a concrete word on what’s the plan for them, it could potentially happen (they could still turn up).

“I don’t know what system we would have in place at these polling stations to determine who is COVID-positive and who is not, and who should be in quarantine or isolation and not. We do not have those things in place.”

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Jasper Ward

Jasper Ward started at The Nassau Guardian in September 2018. Ward covers a wide range of national and social issues. Education: Goldsmiths, University of London, MA in Race, Media and Social Justice

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