PLP accuses govt of frustrating voter registration process

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) yesterday accused the government of frustrating the voter registration process for Bahamians who are seeking to change their address. 

Wayne Munroe, QC, the PLP’s candidate for Freetown, said the government must make it very simple for Bahamians to transfer their address. 

Under the amended Parliamentary Elections Act, a permanent register of voters was established. Those voters who registered in the last election and still live at the same address do not have to register.

But those who moved to a new location must present themselves at a registration site to transfer their address.

According to the Parliamentary Registration Department, voters seeking to transfer their address must present their current voter’s card along with a utility bill showing the new address or a lease agreement. 

The act requires a voter seeking to transfer his or her address to “produce such reasonable evidence, whether documentary or otherwise, as the revising officer shall consider necessary to provide that he is qualified to be so registered”. 

But Munroe argued, “Imagine, in The Bahamas, the parliamentary commissioner has the counterfoil on your voter’s card.

“It has all of your information. It has your picture. Yet they are putting an added burden on voters to register and to transfer.

“This is made even worse because the largest group of persons affected by the need to register a change in their residence are our brothers and sisters who were displaced by Hurricane Dorian, which was a natural disaster; our brothers and sisters who had to move because the competent authority’s handling of the pandemic, which has affected them economically and they have lost their homes.

“So we are dealing with people who have been involved in and caught up in crisis – a natural disaster or a man-made disaster called Prime Minister Hubert Minnis.

“These are the persons who are being asked to produce, we say, unnecessary documents in order to be transferred to properly exercise their franchise.

“You must wonder why this is being done in this age.”

Under the act, first-time voters must take an oath; produce a passport or a birth certificate or a baptismal certificate or such reasonable evidence, documentary or otherwise, as the revising officer shall consider necessary to prove that he is qualified to be and is not already registered; and have two identical copies of a photograph of himself. 

Munroe argued that people seeking to transfer should have the same ease afforded to them. 

“There is no legal justification for requiring any difference between persons registering for the first time and people transferring,” he said. 

He added, “So, exactly what you require of people when they first register which is they simply swear to say they live there. There are legal consequences if you lie about where you live. So that’s all they should be requiring.”

Rumors that Minnis could call an early election prompted hundreds of Bahamians to register or seek to transfer their address this week. 

On July 4, Minnis urged Bahamians to register to vote. On Sunday, PLP Leader Philip Brave Davis also urged Bahamians to register to vote. 

Munroe said, “If they had any doubt that the Bahamian people are tired of them all they need do is consider the prime minister called for people to register and there was no rush.

“The leader of the opposition called for people to register, not to be disenfranchised, and there was a tidal wave to the Parliamentary Registration Department.

“Clearly, the government is aware that the public is tired of them.”

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Travis Cartwright-Carroll

Travis Cartwright-Carroll is the assistant editor. He covers a wide range of national issues. He joined The Nassau Guardian in 2011 as a copy editor before shifting to reporting. He was promoted to assistant news editor in December 2018. Education: College of The Bahamas, English

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