A decision on whether quarantined Bahamians will be allowed to vote in the upcoming general election will have to be made before the advanced poll, according to Minister of Health Renward Wells.
“Well, if you’re quarantined, I don’t think persons inside prison can vote, so we’re going to have to look at the circumstances surrounding being in quarantine because if you come out, you’re putting other persons at risk, so we’re going to have to look at that,” Wells told The Nassau Guardian.
When asked if a decision will be made in time for the advanced poll, he replied, “I’m almost certain of it.”
The election will be held on September 16.
Thirty thousand people are eligible to vote in the September 9 advanced poll, officials have said.
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”.
Such individuals by law are required to apply in writing to the parliamentary commissioner for a special voter certificate. However, it is still not clear whether individuals suffering from an infectious disease like COVID would qualify.
This is a matter that the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) raised when it wrote to Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Lavado Duncanson last week to seek clarity on COVID provisions that will be in place for the election.
Valentine Grimes, one of the PLP’s election coordinators, said the party is concerned that “a number of people who may be in quarantine will be disenfranchised, and so we suggested and recommended to him that he ought to make special provisions for these individuals”.
Free National Movement (FNM) Chairman Carl Culmer also addressed the issue recently.
“The thing is the FNM [doesn’t] believe in trying to prevent anyone from voting but if you’re in quarantine, why would you ask to jeopardize all the folks who are coming out? They (Progressive Liberal Party) make the suggestions but they do not make [a] solution on how it’s going to be done,” Culmer said.
“I believe if you’re going to suggest something, you provide a solution the same time. So, I’m waiting to see their solution and how they ask for these quarantined voters to have the ability to vote.”