First Time Voters Turned Away
Some first time voters found themselves turned away from the polls on Election Day. The explanation from polling officers being that these voters were registered to the 2017 Registry, which will deal with the 2017 General Election, and not to the 2012 Registry, which included last General Election the Gaming Referendum and the Gender Equality Referendum.
The Abaconian received several calls and alerts from these voters who all registered before the deadline yet were barred from voting. The Abaconian placed several calls and eventually spoke to someone within the Parliamentary Registry who expressed regret that voters were being turned away. The source explained that it is procedure that any new citizen registering to vote be automatically included in BOTH the 2012 Registry AND the 2017 Registry: no special request needed to be made one way or another on the part of the voter. Unfortunately, with it being the day of voting, the source concluded that a remedy would be unlikely but to contact the Return Officer for the island – Island Administrator Charles Moss.
The Abaconian phoned Mr. Moss, who upon hearing of the problem, which was now shaping up to be island wide, requested The Abaconian to contact the disenfranchised voters, ask them to return to their polling division and instruct the local Polling Officer to make a call to Mr. Moss who would be able to remedy individual situations.
This was successful for some voters who were allowed back in to cast their vote. However, for others it did not go as well.
One voter, Brock Pinder, learned he would not be able to vote despite registering in time. However, after seeing The Abaconian’s announcement he went to Polling Division Four (Below Decks, Abaco Beach Resort) but was barred from voting. He requested the Polling Officer to call the Return Officer but the request was refused. Instead Mr. Pinder was given Mr. Moss’ number and told to call the Administrator himself.
Mr. Pinder remained at Polling Station Four for several hours awaiting Mr. Moss, who had to oversee the entire island and move between polling divisions, to arrive.
Eventually Mr. Pinder was allowed to cast a Protest Vote.
Another citizen who was turned away from Polling Division Four was first time voter Daniel Higgs.
“It blows my mind that those chosen to oversee this process could be so oblivious of the proper proceedings.” Said Mr. Higg. “They had one job and that is to make the voting process go smoothly and ensure all who registered are able to vote. When confronted by the voters, they refused to do anything about it. Even after being ‘set straight’ by the administrator, they stuck to their guns as if they had not done anything wrong.”
Discrepancy on the Voter Registry was not isolated to Central/South Abaco. One student who had extended his trip back home in Treasure Cay in order to vote, who had registered before the deadline, was turned away as well. He was unable to return to the polls to cast a protest vote as he had a flight to catch later that day.
The unfortunate situation regarding voter registry also put poll workers in a tough situation with no easy remedy. While clear now that every voter should have been placed on the 2012 Registry and polling division indicated, at the time polling officers were not able to verify which polling division the disenfranchised voters should be in since their names did not appear in the 2012 Registry.
It appears the majority of citizens who were disenfranchised were first time voters, ones home from college or school and who had followed all the rules.
However, the majority of citizens allowed to vote that day reported a smooth and pleasant process.
Numbers Do Not Add Up for Polling Division Four
One notable discrepancy being that Polling Division 4 (Below Decks, Abaco Beach Resort) had 490 people vote no on Bill #2. However there are only 363 people registered to polling division four.
The question now is where over one hundred extra votes came from. They could be attributed to voters who had not been registered properly but allowed a protest ballot, however a registration error of that scope is worrying.
A typo is also a possibility, but these are the numbers officially signed off on by the Registry.
CENTRAL/SOUTH ABACO: Question 1 – Yes 737, No 591; Question 2 – Yes 640, No 1134; Question 3 – Yes 628, No 697; Question 4 – Yes 460, No 856.
NORTH ABACO: Question 1 – Yes 590, No 1357; Question 2 – Yes 412, No 1526; Question 3 – Yes 470, No 1460; Question 4 – Yes 244, No 1684.
The Parliamentary Registry has yet to release a full breakdown of Polling Divisions and official numbers.
What Were the Bills?
Bill 1: Under the proposed change to the Constitution, a child born outside of The Bahamas would, after the coming into operation of this amendment, become a Bahamian citizen at birth if either its mother or father is a citizen of The Bahamas by birth.
Bill 2: Under this proposed change to the Constitution, the foreign spouse of a Bahamian citizen would, after the coming into operation of this Article, be entitled to apply for and obtain citizenship subject to satisfying:
(i) existing national security or public policy considerations; and
(ii) new provisions guarding against marriages of convenience.
Bill 3: Under this proposed change to the Constitution, a Bahamian father of a person born out wedlock after the coming into operation of this amendment would be able to pass his citizenship to that person subject to legal proof that he is the father.
Bill 4: Under this proposed change to the Constitution, it would be unlawful to discriminate based on “sex”, which would be defined as “being male or female”.