With 26,000 seniors eligible to vote in the advance poll of the next general election, the opposition Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) is worried that this could make for another chaotic scene, not unlike that experienced in 2017, if the Parliamentary Registration Department does not put in place measures to ensure the large number of additional voters in that poll are properly accommodated.
Amendments to the Parliamentary Registration Act passed last year provide for a permanent register, and also allow for voters 65 and older to vote in the advance poll a week before the general voting population heads to the polls.
“They have to open polling stations in every constituency in New Providence and Grand Bahama and they have to do it in a way which allows for COVID protocols to be followed,” said Valentine Grimes, deputy national election coordinator for the PLP.
Grimes said even if only 15,000 seniors apply to vote in the advance poll, this could be problematic.
Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Lavardo Duncanson said his department is making ready.
“What the parliamentary registration department is continuing to do is we are continuing our efforts to prepare – which involves basically gathering as much information that we are able to obtain that would assist us with our preparations – and making the necessary arrangements so that when we arrive at that particular point, we would have adequately prepared to facilitate the exercise,” Duncanson told National Review when asked about the level of preparation.
“We are at the advanced state of our preparation. We have taken into consideration multiple locations.”
Duncanson said in one constituency there are as many as 1,000 seniors eligible to participate in the advance poll.
During the advance poll on May 3, 2017 when law enforcement workers, political candidates, poll workers and others were allowed to vote, there was mass confusion at Kendal G. L. Isaacs National Gymnasium where the vote took place.
The polls opened about an hour late, ballot boxes were also late, long lines remained virtually unmoving as the sun blazed down, and there was a mad crush against the doors of the gym, which forced authorities to bring out extra barricades to restore some semblance of order.
Officials from various political parties also reported irregularities with the voters register.
The Parliamentary Registration Department is responsible for the conduct of elections.
Duncanson, who was appointed to the position earlier this year, reported yesterday that there are 189,361 people registered to vote: 131,127 on New Providence, 30,232 on Grand Bahama and 28,002 on the Family Islands.
He said more than 14,000 are new voters.
Grimes told National Review the PLP has pointed out to the parliamentary registration department the names of hundreds of individuals who are deceased “and have been deceased for a while”.
“We think we have a duty as a participating party to assist the parliamentary commissioner in his role to ensure that there is as clean a register as is humanly possible,” he said. “So that’s why we took the opportunity to bring to his attention hundreds of persons who were on the register who were deceased for some time and we will continue to do that.”
Duncanson said the process of cleaning up the register is ongoing.
“The Parliamentary Registration Department utilizes any number of measures to confirm whether or not persons have died,” he explained.
“We utilize the Registrar General’s Department. We utilize confirmations in terms of the National Insurance Board … in addition to regular newspaper clippings that would indicate that the person passed. And, of course, there are stakeholders who periodically provide information to us and that certainly goes through a process and when it is confirmed or otherwise, necessary action is taken.”
While the prime minister and the governing party have been signaling that there will be an election in 2021, constitutionally, the prime minister has another year left before he has to call an election.