Column: “Did Not Vote Won By A Landslide”

November 21, 2020 | 23 Comments

[Opinion column written by Shadow Legal Affairs Minister Scott Pearman]

So, did you vote in the Election last month? Really? Well you’re not alone, but the voter numbers may surprise you.

Over 20,000 registered Bermudian voters did not vote. Yes, over 20,000.

That means nearly half of our 46,311 registered voters shunned the Polls. This is a staggeringly large ‘no show’ for an Island which, until now, has prided itself on having very high voter turnout.

No matter what your politics, October 1st was a bad day for Bermudian democracy.

‘Did Not Vote’ won by a landslide.

Slideshow of the 2020 General Election results in all 36 seats:


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Mandate, What Mandate?

There is a saying in politics: ‘the voter is never wrong’.

That is no doubt true, but what about the non-voter? Can ‘Did Not Vote’ ever be wrong?

The 2020 General Election saw the lowest voter turnout in decades. Over 20,000 registered voters stayed home. And it’s considerably higher if you include the thousands of eligible Bermudians who are entitled to vote, but did not register to do so.

Yet only 15,995 people voted to re-elect the PLP – a considerable drop from the 20,059 who supported the PLP in 2017.

Such low turnout causes cracks in the democratic foundation. When the Government’s mandate to govern flows from only 34% of Bermuda’s 46,311 registered voters, where does that leave everyone else?

Sure, some element of the low turnout is due to Covid 19. But there must be many others who did not vote, whether as a conscious choice or simply because the election wasn’t important to them.

And that, of course, is their democratic right.

But with rights come responsibilities. And with responsibilities come consequences. You can ignore politics if you wish, but don’t think politics will ignore you [to misquote Pericles].

The Throne Speech has foreshadowed new and increased taxes. And the Government’s long-standing desire for independence has not diminished. The PLP intend to grab the Corporations of Hamilton and St. George. And the PLP’s Basic Plan for healthcare reform is still barreling down the tracks – even though very few want to board that train due to lack of specifics.

So I ask again, can the non-voter be wrong? We may soon find ‘Did Not Vote’ was responsible for some serious consequences

Animation showing a map with the seat results from the past three General Elections

2012-2017-2020-General-Election-Map-1

Every Vote Matters

And the low turnout is also significant because – time and again – we have witnessed in Bermuda that every vote matters.

Seats in the House have been won and lost by votes you can count on your fingers. Elections have been won and lost when you include your toes.

Take the 2012 election. If only 14 people had voted differently, the PLP would have won. If another 14 had voted differently, the OBA would have won two more seats than the 19 seats that gave the OBA the win in 2012.

So why did only 34% show up to vote PLP this time?

And just in case those 34% who voted PLP think I’m being overly-partisan here, I fully recognize the OBA vote collapsed as well.

5,523 voters who cast ballots for the OBA in 2017 did not do so in 2020. Yes, 5,523.

If only 161 of those 5,523 voters had voted OBA again this time, the Opposition would have secured 10 seats in Parliament. So, whether you voted, or whether you were among the Did Not Vote, the numbers were far closer than you might think.

Here’s one last number for you. If less than half of those 5,523 former OBA voters had showed up at the Polls in 2020 to cast a ballot for the OBA, it would have meant 19 seats for the Opposition – and an election win for the OBA.

Yes, really.

Every vote matters.

- Scott Pearman

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Comments (23)

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  1. Toadinthehole says:

    Mr Pearman, you are not addressing the main issue: why did the OBA vote fall off a cliff?

    • Question says:

      The PLP got 34% of the votes available, and 83% of the seats. That’s the main issue. They do not have the ‘mandate’ they claim to have. Their number of MPs is out of all proportion to the way people voted.

      • Basic Problem says:

        That is the basic problem with a Westminster, first pass the poll system. You are making a strong case for a European proportional representation type system in which how many seats a party wins are dependent on it’s overall share of the vote. Here, this would probably mean doing away with constituencies and voting for individuals (and their parties) in order of preference – 36 seats, chose 36 names from the list in order of preference. The results would be interesting: Bernews, maybe you should come up with a list of say 100 prominent names and have a mini “election” on your site to see what happens.

        • Question says:

          All I’m really saying is that the PLP does not have the solid popular mandate it pretends it has. It’s a delusional myth.

      • Unbelievable says:

        I’ll also add that this election made Bermuda a one party state. That’s not a result for democracy. It’s the new oligarchy. I thought we had done away with that kind of thing.

    • Bobby Jones says:

      Yes many did not vote that could. I have 5 friends that were on island that did not vote. Why? They were in safe seats and didn’t think it was necessary and it didn’t make any difference.

      But the real question is? HOW MANY voters have left the island? Of those same 5 friends, all of their children have left the island and they are registered voters. That’s 8 right there.

      The other really big question is why don’t they live here??? It’s because they couldn’t get jobs here and live a comfortable life.

    • BDA says:

      Instead of him writing crap for his party to remain relevant he should look at the OBA and PLP MPs that increased their total votes and the ones that didn’t.

  2. Ringmaster says:

    Unfortunately the constituency boundaries in Bermuda do not mean each vote counts. Each vote is not of equal value. In some constituencies it could take hundreds of votes to make a difference. I live is one of those, so what was the point in voting, especially in a pandemic? It wouldn’t make a difference.
    What would make a difference to to completely change the system to proportional representation. Could be as simple as taking away the boundaries. Then Bermuda as a whole votes in a Party who wins the most popular vote. However no Party in power will make the change so it’s back to the status quo, who happen to be the PLP and who regularly seek to challenge the status quo. Amazing.

  3. Think says:

    “Sure, some element of the low turnout is due to Covid 19. But there must be many others who did not vote, whether as a conscious choice or simply because the election wasn’t important to them.”

    Weren’t there three constituencies that didn’t have to vote? Shouldn’t you expect a lower voter turnout when there’s lower opposition turnout?

  4. Long Tradition says:

    There is a long tradition in Bermuda elections of registered voters voicing their displeasure by not turning at the polls. Basically, even if they disapprove of their own party’s performance, these folks will never vote for the other guys. Up to 1998 and also in 2012, this was mostly a PLP problem, i.e getting supporters to actually show up. It has now become the OBA’s biggest challenge – that and getting a slate of candidates who don’t look and act like they are on day release from the Wellness Centre.

  5. One who escaped says:

    Doesn’t anyone ever proof read these articles???

  6. Did not vote says:

    Well it is as simple as this, Bermuda is blessed to be a country where every vote counts and every vote is equal. As opposed to an electorial college, which by the way many would like to get rid of. So this election, as I predicted back in 2017, was a marked low turnout. In fact it almost activated a clause in our Constitution that states if less then half of the voters cast a vote the Governor can simply appoint a Government. Please note the real reason for the low turnout is an overall lack of faith in our government from the people. We elected the PLP as a solution to the financial downspin the OBA caused (America’s cup; speaking out of turn saying it will be a economic stimulus if America win and stay another four years. The Airport Deal; signing a contract that has a thirty year term even though a elected MP serves a five year term before another vote). PLP once in power had said the airport contract would cost $196 million to break the deal and now the total investment by skyport is over $370 million not too mention an additional $20 million that we have to pay. Making the initial buyout look like a deal considering we don’t know when we will stop having to pay. So eventually we might pay over $196 million and still be in contract. With all of that effecting our livelihoods and no light at the end of the tunnel people could really care less about who wins the election because they are not helping us. Sure PLP may look good giving out all this money but they are still taking that money from the government workers. Some may say that they should but it’s only so long you can do that and only so much you can take, because at the end of the day it will run out too. So where do we go from here? Who will really do something to turn the economy around? Personally I firmly believe we are sitting on an untapped gold mine right here in Bermuda and I have a long list of ways to save us money, make us more money, and put our money to more effective use, getting us more value for our dollar. However I will not share that in this forum but I will go public. So let’s be real the ‘did not vote’ won this election by a landslide!!! Have a blessed day!!!

  7. Proven says:

    Persistent economic inequality and opportunity inequality will lead to a very unfortunate outcome for Bermuda. Mr. Pearman’s position of privilege obscures his view of the past.

  8. Are you kidding me? says:

    So there you go …had the OBA done what they were supposed to do prior to the election things would turned out different, instead of going door to door and canvas they just sat on their back side and assumed that they would automatically get the vote ..hope it was a lesson to be thought….

  9. White Wash says:

    Funny how this wasn’t a problem when the obaUBP used to win all the time.

    As the American Indians said to the obaUBP! “Only the obaUBP would believe that you could cut the foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

  10. This is Funny says:

    Hhhmmmmm maybe just maybe another reason for the low turn-out numbers might have had to do with the Oba not even putting out candidates in several of the constituencies and even giving the plp uncontested seats. I think the Oba have to look at their responsibility to the voter and stop trying to reduce the plp’s domination and landslide victory.

  11. Ronda says:

    Seems only the OBA and their supporters..

    Didn’t notice it was their own supporters that failed to show up ..and bote for them..

    Continuing to focus on the PLP…will keep the PLP in the majority for the foreseeable future.

    • Toodle-oo says:

      But the PLP focused relentlessly on the OBA from 2012-2017 and it worked for them . How come , in your mind , it only works one way ?

  12. Toejam Express says:

    I think you are forgetting that there was a pandemic affecting all of Bermuda during the time of the election. Had the votes cast taken by mail and this was the result then Mr. Pearman’s arguments may have some validity.

  13. Joe Bloggs says:

    Dear Mr. Pearman, I agree with you that “‘Did Not Vote’ won by a landslide.” Now I ask you to look at why that is so.

    The PLP (and to a certain extent, the OBA itself) have successfully painted the OBA and the UBP rebranded. No matter what we thought 30 years ago, many of us have evolved and do not want to support the UBP rebranded.

    The OBA are politically irrelevant and the sooner it disbands and makes room for a truly progressive opposition party the better.

    I would hope that the new opposition party would be socially progressive, but economically conservative. That is what the BDA was before being taken over by the UBP and rebranded as the OBA.

    • Ringmaster says:

      There is a defacto Opposition. It is called International Business. Maybe no votes directly, but they have considerable influence over certain matters, especially financial.

      • Joe Bloggs says:

        Business interests are no guarantee of, or match for, a healthy democratic Parliament with a viable political opposition.

        As you say, business interests cannot vote. They have no interest in defending my individual rights

  14. watching says:

    Soooo when we analyse the numbers we see that it was mostly OBA supporters that didn’t show up. What does that say? The majority of PLP voters showed up. Remember that in Constituencies 16, 17, and 26, no one had to vote. Those were 3 traditional PLP constituencies.
    In the 2017 election, the PLP vote in those areas were
    C16 PLP 820, OBA 58
    C17 PLP 540, OBA 283
    C18 PLP 724, OBA 192

    So simply by the OBA not fielding candidates in these 3 areas the vote totals were down automatically by 2084 for the PLP, and 533 for OBA. Mr Pearman makes no note of this in his equations.

    He says that over 20000 voters didn’t vote. He is correct but he fails to mention that his Party, the ‘wanna be government in waiting’, actually denied 3673 people their right to vote by not running candidates.

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