Following a tour of a polling station at A.F. Adderley Junior High School yesterday, Acting Parliamentary Commissioner Lavado Duncanson assured that today’s voting process will be safer and more efficient than it was during the advanced poll last Thursday.
Duncanson, however, said that given the circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is necessary that his team be flexible to deal with any unexpected challenges.
“We are aware that adjustments throughout this entire process have been mandatory,” he said.
“We find ourselves as a nation and certainly the global community where circumstances beyond our control dictate that we make adjustments. The team that you see standing around, every effort is going into ensuring that the process is as safe and as smooth as it can be. But this process has taught us that there is the need to remain flexible.
“… Over this process, we have made adjustments, we have put in place replacements and the intent is to ensure that, God willing, tomorrow there will be a general election in accordance with the Parliamentary Elections Act.”
Voting got off to a chaotic start last week at multiple polling stations on New Providence. Lines were long, reminiscent of the 2017 advanced poll. And despite the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, there was little social distancing at some polling stations.
Duncanson said adjustments have been made, including plans to have areas for the elderly and disabled where they can sit comfortably while waiting to cast their votes.
“We received feedback as it relates to the lines and individuals within that category specifically who had to stand on the long lines,” Duncanson said.
“One of the adjustments we are making for the general election is a waiting area for persons who are 65 years and over. On some of the campuses, those waiting areas will comprise of tents that are being erected as we speak by men and women from the Royal Bahamas Defence Force.
“Those areas will serve as a waiting area where persons within that category, disabled as well as 65 years and over who … cast their vote tomorrow can be accommodated, can be seated.”
Duncanson said more signage will also be erected to improve the organization of the process.
He said one concern is the number of polling agents who will be permitted to observe the voting process in the classrooms, which are relatively small rooms.
“This location, for example, has nine candidates,” he said.
“The law permits up to three election poll agents per candidate. If we were to stick with the three per candidate, you can imagine that would be 27 election agents in the room that you would have just visited.
“And so, we are seeking to balance a delicate situation where we know that from a democratic process, it is extremely important for representation to be there from the political parties.
“And so, it is our intent to continue throughout the course of the voting process to work with those particular parties, so that we can ensure that there is access to the facility, so that there is the opportunity for such persons to observe the voting process.
“As you would have indicated, the challenge does exist in terms of the structure.
“We … facilitated during the advanced poll the successful facilitation of the voting process with the representation of parties and we intend to do the same during the general election.”
Minister of National Security Marvin Dames said he was satisfied with the measures taken to improve the process.
“From the briefing, it’s clear that they…made some significant adjustments from the advanced poll,” he said.
“And that’s what it’s all about.
“When you are conducting operations of this magnitude and nature, you always go back to the drawing board to see what you can improve on, what you can do better, and how you can execute smooth general elections.
“And so, I’ve been very pleased with the briefing this morning after hearing from the parliamentary commissioner and the senior brass of the police and defense force.”
Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Ashton Greenslade said hundreds of officers will carry out Election Day duties.
“We will have just over 700 police officers working to ensure that voters come and they are able to exercise their rights without being interfered with,” he said.
“… All of the polling stations will be manned by a chief superintendent who will be responsible for the smooth flow in terms of security and safety.”