[Updated with PLP, OBA & UBP response] Two Bermudian college students have started an online initiative with the hopes of obtaining online voting for Bermudians studying overseas.
The subject of students ability to vote has been much discussed since Premier Paula Cox called the election, which falls on Monday December 17th. Numerous comments have been left on Bernews, and via social media with students complaining they will not be able to participate in the electoral process.
One of the students behind the new initiative, Danielle Lightbourn, said: “I believe that all Bermudians are entitled to vote. I do feel that it is a breach of human rights to prevent a registered Bermudian from voting simply because they are doing examinations overseas on the date of the 2012 election [Dec. 17th].
“Many Bermudians between the ages of 18-25 are overseas working on Undergraduate and Graduate degrees and are unable to come home to vote due to examination schedules. Many of these Bermudians are bettering themselves so that they can come home and better Bermuda.”
“As a result, Kelsey Pichery [A Bermudian studying overseas who is now unable to vote due to examinations overseas] and I have developed a page on Facebook with the hope of obtaining online voting for Bermudian’s studying overseas. If we can register to vote online, why is it that we cannot vote online? We live in a computer savvy world. ”
Their Facebook page says: “This is a non-partisan initiative to identify the number of registered voters who will be unable to participate in the 2012 BDA Election. This initiative hopes to bring Bermudians together as one community where everyone’s voice can be heard.
“Every voice deserves to be heard, including those voices who are overseas at university or for other reasons during the election time period. Through this initiative we hope to obtain online voting for Bermudians who are unable to be in Bermuda to vote. By passing online voting through legislation, all Bermudians will be free to vote wherever they are in the world for the future of their Island.”
Update 8.25pm: OBA Leader Craig Cannonier said: “First, we commend Danielle Lightbourn, Kelsey Pichery and other students for getting involved in the fight to have their voices heard. Bermuda is their country as much as anyone else’s and they should be able to have a say in its future.
“This issue was at the forefront of our thinking when we delivered our first Throne Speech Reply in 2011.
At the time, we said an OBA Government would ‘immediately overhaul the Parliamentary Elections Act to involve as many citizens as possible in decisions about the future of the Island. We will extend the advance poll for those who are travelling, and absentee ballots to students living abroad.’
“Our stand on this issue is anchored to one of the OBA’s founding principles – inclusiveness. We want a Bermuda in which no one if left behind and that extends to making sure all who can vote can vote.
“Our aim is to bring people together, not just to work together but to give them a greater say in the future of their Island. This is the kind of hope and change we want for Bermuda.
“We are confident online voting can become a reality. There will be no difficulty in adopting a system whereby absentee ballots are made available to students who are on the voters list,” Mr Cannonier concluded.
Update 8.27pm: A PLP spokesperson also responded, saying: “”Any time an election is called, there will be people unable to participate in the process. In setting the election dates throughout the PLP’s tenure we have strived to accommodate our students and encouraged maximum participation by eligible voters.
“The Progressive Labour Party is examining the various options surrounding absentee balloting ensuring that adequate protection is in place to maintain the validity and legitimacy of the electoral process.
“We understand that many students will be at home in time to participate and we look forward to sharing our vision for the future and our 10 point action plan to create jobs and opportunity for all Bermudians in the time leading up to the general election.”
Update 9.46pm: The UBP said: “Kim Swan and Charlie Swan have for some time called for amendments to the way Bermuda elections are held. Specifically, we have called for debate on absentee balloting, for a system based to a greater degree on a proportional representation system, and for fixed term elections.
“An attempt by us to put a motion on absentee balloting was defeated some time ago. The idea that all voters eligible to vote, should vote, is a mantra we support.
“For many, obtaining the right to vote required a struggle. That right comes with responsibilities…..know your politicians, parties and what they stand for. Read and ask tough questions of our leaders. Gain understanding….and vote responsibly.
“We support the efforts of students who feel disenfranchised. We support a voting system that truly advances one man one vote, each vote of equal value, a system that removes political interference from the electoral process.
“Unfortunately, absentee balloting can not occur overnight, and certainly not for this election….the process an be in place for the next election….we believe it should and will work to ensure it is.”