The following statement was issued by the Chairman of the Progressive Liberal Party Senator Fred Mitchell in response to a misleading announcement made by the Parliamentary Commissioner on Election Law:
15 July 2021
The Progressive Liberal Party draws public attention to a public notice published in the local newspapers (on 15 July) from the Parliamentary Registration Department (PRD) on the registration requirements for new voters and transferees.
We immediately point out that the condition for transferring as laid out in the public notice is wrong in law. Voters who transfer to a new Constituency can legally vote in their former constituency up to one year after transferring if they chose to.
The government must correct this error.
Further, according to the public notice, voters registering for the first time need only swear an affidavit of their current residence. Transferees on the other hand are required to produce evidence of current residence. This latter is a serious impediment to transferees, in particular displaced Bahamians from the islands of Abaco and Grand Bahama who are currently living with family and friends.
The government must have recognized that this imposition on transferees in light of the extraordinary circumstances of Dorian amounts to voter suppression.
The Prime Minister should use the discretion of his office to expand the voting franchise and encourage voter participation – not to suppress the vote. Many Bahamians view this as a pernicious and an underhanded political tactic by a vulnerable government led by a Prime Minister desperate to hang onto power.
Certainly, this discretionary policy is offensive to the spirit and initial intent of the Constitution regarding the voting franchise.
Further, the need to transfer by thousands of Bahamians is significantly magnified and complicated by the government’s ill-advised decision to use the 2017 voters register as the permanent register rather than creating a new permanent register as was recommended by the PLP.
It is our considered view that based on information coming to our attention – literally thousands of voters would be disenfranchised – rendered ineligible to vote because they would have moved from their place of residence where they registered (in 2017) for more than one year.
The Progressive Liberal Party also takes grave exception to the threatening tone and tenor of the notice in regards to the ‘consequences’ voters can face if they fail to meet the above requirements.
The government is strongly advised to revisit this half-baked discretionary policy with a view to protecting the rights and privileges guaranteed to every Bahamian under the Constitution.