OBA cry foul over voters’ details
The One Bermuda Alliance alleged this afternoon that voters’ contact details, filed with the office of the Parliamentary Registrar, had been shared with the Progressive Labour Party for election campaigns dating back to 2012.
The statement was issued by Patricia Gordon-Pamplin, the Shadow Minister of Home Affairs.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin called for a report by the Registrar to be made public “immediately”.
The register of voters is a public document — but the e-mails and telephone numbers of voters are not included.
Ms Gordon-Pamplin alleged that these details had been used by the PLP as recently as last month, in the by-election campaigns in Warwick North East and Paget East.
The Gazette has sent queries to the PLP, as well as Tenia Woolridge, the Parliamentary Registrar, on the Opposition’s claim.
The statement follows:
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Bermuda Constitution. This landmark document is the foundation of modern democracy in Bermuda.
It sets out the electoral processes by which Bermudians choose their parliamentary representatives and their Government. To have free and fair elections there must be a level playing field.
We have had three changes of the party in Government: the first in 1998; the second in 2012; and the third in 2017. Our general elections have largely been free of allegations of impropriety or election fraud.
In the past when your party won or lost, a Bermudian could have the conviction that there was a fair electoral process.
Successive generations of Bermudians have fought for us to take this assumption for granted; that is, to fully enjoy the right to participate in free and fair elections where political parties are able to compete on a level playing field.
It is for this reason that I come before the people of Bermuda with a heavy heart to raise very serious and grave concerns.
Specifically, it is our belief that the PLP has had improper access to the private contact information of thousands of registered voters over a period of at least 5 years as confirmed by the Parliamentary Registrar in a report in the Gazette dated the 10th of August 2017, which said: (and I quote)
“ ‘I have now been able to ascertain that the information was requested and approved in 2012 by the then Parliamentary Registrar,’ she said.
File transfer of the information was “still in effect beyond 2012’, she added.”
It is our belief that the PLP obtained the private and confidential contact details, e-mail addresses and phone numbers of voters via access from Parliamentary Registrar’s office, which the then Opposition Leader, David Burt has already admitted in July last year.
In a pre-election interview at Alaska Hall:
David Burt was asked a question about an investigation into unsolicited e-mails being sent to voters by the Party (PLP)
He said: I can only refer you to the statement we made when we were contacted by your newspaper on Thursday or Friday on that matter.
He was then asked: does the Party want to comment as how the information as to e-mail addresses was obtained in the first place?
Mr Burt replied: “That was in our statement. I don’t have a copy on front of me but the information came from the Parliamentary Registrar’s Office. We contact voters on the doorstep, we contact them by e-mail, by phone and that information is received from the Parliamentary Registrar’s Office.”
He was asked a follow-up question: are you saying that the Parliamentary Registrar provided e-mail addresses to the PLP:
Mr Burt replied: The information we received is the same information that we have received from the Parliamentary Registrar, I want to say. for the last ten years.
He was asked whether e-mail address were included.
Mr Burt replied: The information we received does include that, yes.
He was asked: Do they give it to you?
Mr Burt replied: We have a link that we download the information from that we have been downloading information from for the past seven or eight years.”
Access to data which was not given to the OBA. Using this singular access, the PLP was able to aggressively target voters.
We discovered this impropriety in the run up to the 2017 General Election.
Our candidates were contacted by numerous voters complaining that they were being contacted by the PLP — via calls to their private telephones and e-mails to their private addresses.
These voters stated emphatically that this private, personal contact information had not been shared by them with the PLP.
In some instances, voters indicated that they had only recently registered with the Office of the Parliamentary Registrar.
Voters stated that the PLP had then contacted them on a specific e-mail or personal mobile or home phone number that was not publicly available, or had only recently been created or obtained, and that e-mail or mobile number had been shared only with the Office of the Parliamentary Registrar.
The Parliamentary Registrar has confirmed that such information is not made public.
A prominent notice on the Parliamentary Registrar’s website states, “Records obtained or created by the Parliamentary Registration Office in the course of carrying out its functions are not accessible to the public”.
By an e-mail to the OBA dated 28 October 2015, the Parliamentary Registrar confirmed to the OBA that“the sharing of e-mail and phone numbers is not something that we share outside the office.”
In addition, the Parliamentary Registrar in a letter dated 14 July 2017 stated: “I can confirm as Parliamentary Registrar I have given NO authorisation to anyone to share voter contact information. Neither am I aware of how this information could have been obtained by persons outside the Parliamentary Registrar’s office.”
This is not acceptable.
If the Constitution can be thought of as the rules of the game, the Parliamentary Registry is its referee.
All good sportsmen love winning and hate losing.
But they participate knowing that the referee isn’t favouring the other side; that if they lose one day, they can still win another.
Whether knowingly or not, the Office of the Parliamentary Registrar tipped the balance in favour of one side.
Since the OBA shone a spotlight on this issue, the Parliamentary Registrar has confirmed that she did not authorise this sharing of private information.
Ms. Tenia Woolridge said that she would launch an investigation into how voters’ information was improperly released. She committed to sharing the outcome of this process.
However that Report has not yet been released to the public.
We firmly believe that there is an overriding public interest in the release of any report and getting to the centre of this web of apparent deceit.
Fast forward nearly a year, the public remains none the wiser. What happened with this investigation? Where is the Registrar’s Report? What is being done to prevent this sort of thing from happening? We understand that she has prepared a report, but we still know nothing.
The PLP are still in possession of this information and are using it to the hilt while falsely claiming that they obtained all information through their canvassing.
Despite the promise by the Parliamentary Registrar, we have not been able to obtain the release of the Report.
The OBA demands that this Report be released into the public domain immediately. Transparency must be the order of the day.
If we are to ensure true democracy, responsible parties must be held accountable and the playing field must be levelled, to ensure fair elections in the future.
At the bedrock, this is not about the OBA. And it is not about the PLP. It is about democracy.
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