The Bahamas boasts not only of a history of free and fair elections, but of high voter turnout at the polls.
The 2017 general election’s voter turnout of 88.4 percent was the country’s lowest since 1987, though still in range of an average voter turnout of around 90 percent – putting The Bahamas among the top listing for voter participation in democratic countries.
With such high voter turnout, registered voters who do not cast their ballot election day do not feature prominently in post-election analysis.
There are many reasons that account for a registered voter not casting his or her ballot, and those reasons are as important to the electoral process and the democracy as the reasons that compel registered Bahamians to vote for the government of their choice.
In 2017, some 21,136 registered voters did not cast their ballot; in 2012, there were 15,844; in 2007, there were 11,844; in 2002, there were 14,222; in 1997, there were 8,873; in 1992, there were 10,875; and in 1987, there were 12,433 registered Bahamians who did not cast their ballot on election day, according to figures posted to carribeanelections.com, which sources its data from the Parliamentary Registration Department.
Perspective initiated a Facebook survey on August 20, asking Bahamians whether they planned to vote in the upcoming general election.
Of the 105 respondents, 89 responded “yes”; nine responded “no”; and seven responded “unsure”.
The 15.2 percent of respondents who said they either will not vote or are unsure if they will cast their ballot is a significant percentage, with published polls posting even higher percentages of undecided voters.
SENTIMENTS OF DISILLUSIONMENT
We questioned those who indicated they were either undecided or disinterested in voting, with various reasons given for their mindset ahead of poll day.
Wellington Westgate said, “I would like to vote for Desmond Bannister, representative for the Carmichael constituency, but unfortunately, I do not want my efforts to contribute to Minnis remaining at the helm. Therefore, I will not be voting.”
Ronnie Sands, of the Central and South Abaco constituency, said he is undecided heading into the election, noting, “I am 64-years-old. Both major parties are two of the same. And nothing new to look forward to.”
Alex Cartwright, of Freetown, said, “I might vote, but I’m not sure because I’m disgusted with the FNM and don’t trust the PLP. And all other groups are a waste of my time and vote.”
Sha’nae Smith, of Central and South Andros, said, “As a new voter, the track record of the two major parties is discouraging. They do not work in unison regardless of who wins for the bettering of the people. Is that not the main goal? I just opt to deal with whichever party is selected, and if their intentions are pure, I will see that during their governing.”
Dino Mosko, of Freetown, responded, “Doesn’t make any difference who is in power anymore. We as Bahamians will always be second class to all politicians! We have no voice, and if we do speak, no one listens! So why waste time on voting?
“My family of four that are registered voters, will not be voting this election. My kids agree with me, and my wife. We are third-class citizens in our own country!
“One time ago, I was proud to be a Bahamian. Nowadays, we don’t know what Bahamian means. It is a sad day, but it’s not only me, the majority of my friends are not voting for the same reason, and as one friend said, the only thing he got out of voting last election was jury duty!
“The bottom line is voting is pointless! This will be my first time not voting in almost 30 years.”
Grand Bahama resident Nera Curry, who chose to not register at all, said, “It just don’t make any sense. I don’t have a say whether I vote or not, so why waste my time voting?
“None of these political parties make any kind of sense. They always make promises just to get in. They only tell us things we want to hear so we can vote for them. But when they get into power, they don’t deliver nothing they promised. So, in my opinion, it’s a waste of time voting because change is never coming. I can’t live on empty promises and I will not. So whoever wins the election good for them.”
Hazel Laing, of the East Grand Bahama constituency, said, “As a younger Bahamian, this would only be my second time voting. But as a child to an adult both FNM and PLP have had their hands in destroying Grand Bahama with dream-selling and delusion.
“I went to find the [candidate] of the DNA that is up for my constituency, but I still don’t know who they are. But history shows that the two main parties [do] nothing in the best interests of Bahamians and Bahamian culture.”
Dellie Smith, of Elizabeth, said, “Well, one of the reasons for not wanting to vote is one, there is no real change and it seems that my people are confused between the two major parties. And sorry to say, the Free National Movement nor the Progressive Liberal Party don’t seem to have any new ideas on running this country.”
Dorian survivor Alicia Sawyer Cooke, who was displaced from North Abaco into North Eleuthera, posted a cartoon graphic of Free National Movement (FNM) and Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) flyers in a trash can.
When asked what this picture represents to her, Cooke replied, “That I am so saddened at the state of our country! I am a survivor of Dorian; and I, along with many, almost lost mine and my family’s life.
“Our government did nothing to help us, only hinder. The PLP and FNM are both trash in my eyes. We have not progressed at all and our future is very grim.”
In his response to the question of voting, Detrick Francis said, “Hell no, the unregistered voter has as much say as the registered voters, absolutely none.”
Georgina Gardiner, of Marco City, said, “My reason for not wanting to vote is because I feel both parties can’t be trusted with our Bahamaland. Everyone that goes in has a hidden agenda and placing us the Bahamian people who [are] voting them in on the back burner.
“Look at our hospitals, the amount of persons dying, people hungry. I mean if you take the time to visit door to door one day and see the amount of people [and] how inhumane they are living, it’s depressing. It’s hurtful and I feel like they don’t care about us.
“All I can say is I pray God helps me make a decision to vote come election, but as it stands I voting for GOD, my provider, my source, my healer.”
Carla Miller, of South Beach, said of her decision not to vote, “Definitely not voting for the FNM candidate, Jeffery Lloyd, and I don’t know nor haven’t seen the other parties’ candidates.”
And Ralph Hepburn, of Marco City, who said he is unsure if he will vote, responded, “My MP is doing an awesome job as an MP and a Cabinet minister.
“However, I just CANNOT support the current leader of the party. To me and my understanding of what leadership entails, he has failed miserably!”
ENCOURAGEMENT TO VOTE
Those who say they will vote on election day encouraged respondents in our survey to exercise their right as a Bahamian to cast their ballot, while there were several respondents who expressed concerns about COVID safety protocols at the polls.
Ida Dorsett said, “I am very proud of the fact The Bahamas has one of the highest voter election turnouts in the entire world by capita. And I brag about it! Don’t let others decide your future. Many people in the world do not have the right to vote and wish they did.”
Sherlene Roker said, “Not voting does not help anything because someone will be elected anyway. So not voting is more like voting for who you don’t want.”
Helen Bridgewater said, “You that don’t vote wont have a voice. Always remember voters, your vote is your voice.”