Good Start For Voter Registration Despite Weather

NASSAU, The Bahamas — Early registration for the next Parliamentary (General) Elections got off on schedule in New Providence Monday morning as candidates for registration filed in and out of Voter Registration Centres despite the inclement weather.

Voter Registration Centres opened promptly at 10 a.m. in preparation of the new Voter Register. The simultaneous opening of multiple centres in New Providence, Grand Bahama and the Family Islands will facilitate an early National Voter Registration Drive.

Voter Registration Centres in New Providence are located on the ground floor of the Parliamentary Registration Department, Farrington Road; south of the Centre Court at the Town Centre Mall; in the Mall-at-Marathon, near the Bahamas Telecommunications Company store, on the Ground Floor of the General Post Office and in the Parcel Post Department, General Post Office, East Hill Street.

Additional Centres were opened at the Elizabeth Estates, South Beach and Flamingo Gardens Post Offices.  Grand Bahama locations include the Parliamentary Registration Department, National Insurance Building (Freeport), the Administrator’s Office, Eight Mile Rock, and the Administrator’s Office in High Rock.

Registration of voters in the Family Islands will take place at the Administrator’s Office. All Registration Centres will be opened from 10am to 4pm Monday through Friday. Evening registration is scheduled to commence at a later date.

Parliamentary Commissioner, Mr. Errol Bethel, who visited New Providence locations for several hours Monday morning, said officials at the Parliamentary Registration Department were “quite satisfied” with the number of persons registering early, despite the inclement weather affecting New Providence.

“I was quite happy with the numbers given the inclemency of the weather,” Mr. Bethel said.

“During the first day what we really want to do is to see how things are going so that we can get an idea of turnout, while ensuring that all of the mechanisms we have put in place are functioning as anticipated.

“Things went as expected at the locations in New Providence that I visited Monday and so I was quite happy with that,” Mr. Bethel added.  The Parliamentary Commissioner said the use of multiple locations for early registration will help to “speed up” the process.

He said expediting the process will not affect the sanctity of the process.  He said applicants for registration must be citizens of The Bahamas of full age and not subject to any legal incapacity and must be ordinarily resident in the constituency for a period not less than three months immediately preceding the day of registration.

Commissioner Bethel said while Section 19 of the Parliamentary Elections Act provides for the consideration of other documents — among them baptismal certificates or such reasonable evidence whether documentary or otherwise as the Revising Officer shall consider to prove that the applicant is qualified to be registered and is not already registered — persons applying for registration must present a valid Bahamian passport as proof of citizenship.  Mr. Bethel said a valid Bahamian passport will serve as the “principal document” that will be accepted for registration.

“If a person does not have a valid passport, he/she should present a birth certificate along with an official photo ID,” Mr. Bethel said.

“We need to be satisfied that people who are registering are in fact Bahamian citizens and these measures will help us to do that.

“Please bear in mind the fact that all documents that people may present do not prove citizenship,” Mr. Bethel continued, “documents such as the old Voter’s card, an affidavit, a Baptismal Certificate, or a Certificate of Identity does not prove citizenship. Even the Birth Certificate in some instances does not prove citizenship.

“The onus is on the Revising Officer to satisfy him/herself that an applicant is a citizen of The Bahamas and is indeed qualified to be registered as a voter,” Mr. Bethel added.

Qualified applicants will be required to sign an Oath confirming the accuracy of the information given to officials at the end of the registration process. Copies of all documents provided by applicants will be kept by the Department.

No new registration cards will be issued at the time of registration. However, all new registrants will receive a receipt confirming registration.  Mr. Bethel said accuracy of information is critical to the process.

“I cannot emphasise the importance of it enough because if the person gives you the wrong side of the street on which they live it could possibly mean placing that person in a different constituency,” Mr. Bethel said.

“The possibility also exists that there could be some changes to constituency boundaries, and we will depend on information we receive to place persons in the right constituency.”  The Parliamentary Commissioner said the same stands for the Family Island applicants.

“The Family Island Register is used for both the Local Government and Parliamentary Elections. The Local Government Elections are Polling Division Elections which means that persons are registered to vote and offer for candidacy in Polling Divisions as opposed to constituencies,” Mr. Bethel said.

“If they are placed in the wrong Polling Divisions, then they will be unable to vote and/or offer for candidacy and so it is extremely important that persons are placed in the correct Polling Divisions in the Family Islands,” Mr. Bethel added.

By Matt Maura
Bahamas Information Services