Election in 2020 was a complete disappointment
The 2020 election was my first voting election, and initially this was a milestone that I was truly looking forward to experiencing. This milestone will soon mark a new transition and transformation in my life, purpose and calling. I had the opportunity to experience and witness the election from a different angle than the average voter — on the campaign trail.
This experience was truly eye-opening for me, as I soon began to realise how broken and problematic our political institution is, and the impact it is having on young people. The snap election exposed many flaws in and facets to our political system that I had yet to notice — from our outdated voting process and procedures, to the inherent disconnect and misinformed youth voters, to the blatant pushback against common democratic processes such as a debate. The plethora of issues surrounding our political institutions are simply overwhelming and in need of a dramatic shift before our next election.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a contributing factor in deterring many young people from taking part in the election because of living and/or studying abroad. However, there were countless overseas university students and young people living abroad who might have had the opportunity to vote if we simply had an absentee voting system. There are countless nations that have adopted this system into their political processes, even countries relative to our island’s size such as the Bahamas and Cayman Islands. Implementing this system would not only increase the youth vote, but greatly expand overall voter turnout owing to its convenience. This system is needed now more than ever with the present pace of young Bermudians seeking resettlement and employment overseas.
During the lead-up to election day, I had countless conversations with many of my peers, and there was a common sentiment of uncertainty and distrust about the political process. Young people are not to blame for this disconnect; if there is any blame to be cast for creating these barriers and contributing to the lack of knowledge within our education system, it is on our political institutions. I have long held the belief that the education system in Bermuda should include topics on the political and civic process, which is essential to creating a robust voting population.
This disconnect has led young Bermudians to hold the view that voting is simply pointless and ineffective. It seems quite regressive that this is the outcome because the youth represent the future and voting greatly affects them. In order to eradicate this disconnect, during the short period between the calling of the election and the day itself, I joined forces with many like-minded peers to form a platform that would bridge the gap between the young people of Bermuda and our political leaders. We strove to create a bipartisan platform that would inform and educate first-time and young voters on each political party’s platform and representatives, and the structure of the political process. Our platform became a beacon for the young people of Bermuda to feel empowered and prepared to cast their vote on election day.
Outside of creating a platform to inform and educate voters, there needed to be a change in direction to truly make an effective difference. I was a part of a small group of advocates fighting for a change in our democratic process by implementing a debate for clear discourse between each party leader. A debate of this nature would have given voters a chance to witness the calibre of leadership and poise that could not have been experienced through traditional door-to-door canvassing. Furthermore, this plea was reinforced by an online public petition calling for a pre-election debate that received more than 800 signatures. We were able to make concessions and adjustments to create a makeshift form of debate with the Pre-Election Leaders Forum. This forum was a success, as it gave the island an unprecedented opportunity to hear our political leaders address, clarify and answer questions on pertinent topics.
The lesson I learnt from the October 2020 election is that we should not blindly put all our trust in political parties to make the changes we need within our community. We the people have the power to advocate, protest and spark movements that create change. My participation, along with my peers from Bermuda Youth Connect and countless community members, created a permanent shift in our political institutions, and there is no going back.
• Submitted by Ajai Peets