E-Petition Calls For Change To Referendum Act

September 3, 2015

An online petition has been launched aiming to make the holding of referendums mandatory when they have the support of at least 10% of the electorate.

The petition calls for the Referendum Act 2012 [PDF] to be amended to allow for a petition signed by at least ten percent of registered voters to automatically trigger a binding referendum.

The petition is part of a “broader drive to improve democratic participation and to improve the quality of life for all Bermudians,” Transform Bermuda said.

In a supporting document written by Transform Bermuda, the authors said that the “Westminster System of government is not well suited to Bermuda because of its adversarial nature, first past the post system of elections and the waste of talent caused by one party forming a Government and the other forming the Opposition.”

“The wider use of referendums, using Switzerland’s successful model, would increase participation and involvement while forcing politicians to work together,” says the group.

Transform Bermuda founder Ian Macdonald-Smith said, “All that is required is for a well drafted Private Members’ Bill to be introduced by two Members of Parliament for the Amendment to the Referendum Act 2012.

“By enacting this legislation, Bermuda has the potential to be a model on how to institute sensible reforms which bring voters back into the political process without the lurches to extremism which we are seeing in democracies through the world.

“These swings are being caused by people who are affected by economic dislocation at the same time that they perceived political elites as being out of touch with their concerns. By giving people a voice and a stake in the decision making process, Bermuda can reverse this trend.”

In addition, the Transform Bermuda document, which is designed to be a starting point for debate, calls for adoption of the Voters Bill of Rights proposed by the Voters Rights Association in 2012.

Measures include fixed-term elections; the right to recall elected parliamentarians; a fair absentee ballot voting system; electronic voting; and proportional representation on Government boards.

The document also details reforms to education and the environment, including a plan for introducing endemic plants and trees on a wide scale.

The e-petition is here & the supporting document follows below [PDF here]:

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Comments (30)

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  1. Frank says:

    What is the sense of voting in people from X Party to represent all of us with the majority winning and representing us for X years??

  2. cow polly says:

    10% of the electorate? Good lord why even vote for a Government to do the people’s business? we’ll be having so many referendums we won’t have time to do our day jobs

    • Cheque Please says:

      And who’s payin for them?!!? A typical referendum costs half a million dollars….

  3. San George says:

    Ya joking right? Under the Westminster system political parties with a majority do whatever they want.
    This is not a country ruled by law – parties rule.

    Quo Fata Ferunt

  4. Kevin says:

    10% is not enough that is under 4000 signatures the number to be much higher like 30% even that is only a third of total voters.Or We would have a referendum every other week , can’t see this getting approval

    • Political Prospect says:

      I did some maths. The BIU would only need about 400 more people to be able to call a referendum on their own.

    • Toleratate says:

      @Kevin, you are 100% correct. Where in the world does a minority (numbers) of 10% have the avenue to force a Referendum on a topic? We have General Elections to vote in political parties to represent out interest; but now 10% of the voting population can demand a Referendum? Sorry this number does not make sense. I understand it does not mean the 10% will win their motion; but being Bermuda and understanding Bermuda politics, there would be a Referendum on EVERY decision made.

  5. Triangle Drifter says:

    The issue of referendums was in the OBA election platform. Nothing has been done. NADA.

    These days holding a referendum should be very easy. You sign in with a password linked to a voters name & it is done.

    How many take part in how many TV talent show voting.

    No, a referendum does not get used for every little piece of legislation but to get a quick feel on major issues, why not. Those who are interested will take part. Those who are not will sit, do nothing, & probably complain about the result. Too bad.

    • Political Prospect says:

      The only issue with electronic voting is it assumes everyone has access to a computer, which rules out some elderly members of the electorate and other who can’t afford access.

      • Political Prospect says:


      • jt says:

        It’s not the only issue but I doubt it would replace traditional voting. Merely an option.
        With respect to the referendum modification, an important factor is whether or not referendum results would be binding. Or at what percentage.

      • Triangle Drifter says:

        Just about the poorest Bermudian walks around with a smartphone. You see them outside of phone stores everytime a new model comes out.

        There is not much that a laptop can do that a smartphone can’t.

        • PBanks says:

          That’s definitely an exaggeration. Not every resident owns a smartphone. Yes, several people of limited income may live beyond their means with a smart phone, but come on now.

          Remember also there’s a fair amount of people who swear off technology, would rather stick with chequebooks vs debit cards, for example.

          Like jt suggests, electronic voting in the immediate future is likely to only be a supplement to existing systems, not a replacement.

    • watchmen says:

      Sounds good to me TD….

    • Impressive says:

      TD contrary to your traditional posts, I agree with you 100%

  6. aceboy says:

    The PLP will make sure we have a referendum every time something is proposed. Silly idea.

  7. hmmm says:

    This is stupid, honestly what idiot puts their names to this.

    This would cost a fortune to do and would slow down an already snail paced red taped slow slow slow government process.

    each referendum would turn into an election type platform. Absolutely stupid. we would be in perpetual referendums.

    Dumb Dumb dumb….(how can I say it more clearly)

    • Triangle Drifter says:

      Well now, since you are the self proclaimed expert on this matter, how much would it cost? How much is this “fortune”? As much as Beyonnce? For what is really an online survey, something that is very common, how many people could you possibly need to administer it?

      • serengeti says:

        A vote is not an online survey. This isn’t like maintaining a polling website using a $10 app. Unless you’d be happy with a low-tech web-based poll, which could be easily manipulated and scammed by fringe interests.

        A reliable online voting system that is secure from fraud would
        cost a lot. Several millions of dollars to set up, and probably millions per year to run.

        It’s a stupid idea.

  8. Impressive says:

    My advice to the group, be very careful, hence you get labelled as being part of the “combined opposition” regardless of how noble your intentions,,

  9. blow in says:

    10% is far to low it should be at least 35% ,walking around the bars of HAMILTON I’m sure i could pick up 4 to 5000 signatures under one guise or another, sure way to make sure nothing ever gets done.I wonder what comic came up with this idea??

  10. J Starling says:

    If one looks at equivalent Acts elsewhere (the various Initiative Acts in BC, various US States), ten percent of the electorate is pretty standard, especially combined with needing to be done within a restricted time period. Most Acts allow for the proposed law to first have a chance of going through parliament first (thus avoiding the costs of a referendum and ensuring it’s at least debated) with the option of a secondary petition (with an increased petition percentage) allowing for a referendum if parliament rejects the proposed law in the first place.

    So there’s certainly ways of going about it and we can draw on precedents overseas.

    The OBA proposed this in the 2012 election campaign and mooted 10% being the trigger threshold at the time too.