NASSAU| Early voting chaos confirmed what we at BP knew from day one when this snap election was called: large crowds in voter turnout will threaten the public health and safety of these elections knowing the kind of system we now employ to elect a government.
At the outset of this article we want to make It clear, that the Parliamentary Commissioner is too inexperienced and unprepared for what should have been a better, smoother process, seeing that multiple new centres were open for early voting. The confusion, crowding, lack of information, the turning away of voters all over the place was not necessary.
The treatment of the elderly like cattle in the sun should have been avoided knowing that we are in a pandemic. And then, added with the long lines, heat and congestion, where even the former Prime Minister was left bewildered by a process, Bahamians were left with no direction or guidance as to where they were to exercise their civic duty once allowed onto the school compound. We must do better!
But may we at BP suggest these are indeed the kind of experiences that make us as citizens think outside the box and develop solutions on how we all (not just the Government) lend advice to enhance our system to elect new lawmakers in our business.
Rather than selecting schools, which are tight spaces, perhaps we should use wide open GYMs and or halls for our early voting process. eg: The KENDALL G. L Isaacs Gym could have provided a better location for the advance polls held at GHS.
In fact, perhaps it could be ideal to use the school gyms across the island instead of these narrow classrooms. It might have spared the voters the health risks and confusion of tight classrooms and overly busy hallways many experienced at the Early Polling last week (September 9).
We know these gyms would have served as far better spaces and would comfortably accommodate even more observers (which is a critical argument in these elections). There are a number of schools throughout the island of New Providence with gym spaces, which could have been identified for this exercise. And where Gyms were not available large halls will also help.
To continue to uphold the traditions of our democracy, there needs to be a simple informational brochure designed to educate each voter about the process of voting, including what should and should not be done during the process of voting. To date even on the eve of these elections where is the material to share with the public? Are we going to just leave that civic lesson to the politician too?
Citizens should also be made aware of these processes via visual and audio presentations. A standard tutorial should also be shared for those participating in the process so that no discrepancies are allowed in the process of handling the ballots. We must do more on educating our people on this process.
To my surprise on September 9th there were still no ramps available to gain easy access into the various polling rooms for the physically challenged. We have passed laws to correct these discriminatory disadvantages to our people and when voting this must be followed. But we must take this conversation further.
Bahamas Press has been inundated with requests to advise members of the public on where to go to vote in various constituencies (people just don’t know where their polling stations are). The sharing of this information would better reduce the confusion on polling day as in the case with the difficulties experienced by the former Prime Minister last week. Technology is by far to readily available and accessible today that the Parliamentary Registration Office does not see the need to engaged the services of a marketing team to develop a strategy to make sure such information is readily disseminated to the public.
Additionally, in these times of technology, we must educate-educate and again EDUCATE our people about the benefits of the use of technology in the systems of our voting. You mean to tell me we can access a Travel Visa from anywhere in the world to gain access into the Bahamas, but cannot develop a lock-tight system to revolutionise the voting process? We must get there. We understand the Parliamentary Registration Department has already bought and paid for an entire new electronic voting system, and yes it is collecting dust.
This new voting system should be used in test elections for local government and/or Union elections. We are far behind. Far too many people are clearly are not ready for this right now (particularly those who are required to manage our elections process)- but we must begin to move in this direction to CHANGE THE CHAOS and risks inherent in our present voting system.
As I understand it every voter registered in the Bahamas would have an assigned ID ( just as in the case of your national insurance number). This ID will follow you wherever you go in the Bahamas or somewhere in the world. Ballots will still have to be manually generated and counted, but the possibility of FRAUD will be greatly reduced! WE MUST GET HERE!
Additionally, in the spirit of transparency and accountability, I personally want to add an extra layer of security in our voting process. The official counting stages and storage of the ballots should be shared LIVE VIA CCTV. We (THE SHAREHOLDERS OF OUR BUSINESS) should be able to witness each stage of our voting process and further satisfy the issues of trust and confidence so many of our people are losing in this process.
There is no reason in 2021 that we should believe all is safe when it comes to our democracy just because we are told that it is. Get a camera up to watch the boxes at the police headquarters so Bahamians in Washington D.C.and Barbados can serve as extra eyes to this exercise.
WE MUST PROTECT AND PRESERVE OUR PRECIOUS DEMOCRACY AT ALL COST OTHERWISE WE CAN LOSE IT ALL IF WE DO NOT CHANGE!
We report yinner decide!