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Electoral reforms show great progress

In racist America, we have seen a long history of voter suppression in many different forms for hundreds of years.

In racist Bermuda, we have seen a long history of voter suppression in many different forms for hundreds of years.

At one point in time, blacks could not vote at all in America. Likewise, at one point in time, blacks could not vote at all in Bermuda.

Then blacks were allowed to vote only if they had property that exceeded a certain value.

So what happened?

Blacks who owned land saw their land devalued in order to prevent them from voting.

Through the works of Roosevelt Brown and the Universal Adult Suffrage group, all persons, regardless of colour and land ownership, were allowed to vote in the 1968 General Election.

Then there was imposed an age limit of 21 in order to vote.

Ironically, black males were drafted into the Royal Bermuda Regiment and trained how to use firearms at age 18, but not allowed to vote.

Then there was the annual voter registration where, if one did not get registered annually, they could not vote.

All voter suppression, Bermuda-style, under the United Bermuda Party.

Even the One Bermuda Alliance attempted to usher in its own version of voter suppression:

“The OBA's goal in requiring eligible voters to register every four or five years by a defined date, prior to a fixed-term election, will move the process of voting in Bermuda forward by building on the experience of the past while not repeating its mistakes. There is a part of the current voter registration process that doesn't work very well, and our suggestions are aimed at correcting this.”— OBA senator Michael Fahy (January 2012)

Voter-base progression

The Progressive Labour Party of Dame Lois Browne-Evans, L. Frederick Wade, Walter Roberts, Walter Lister and so many others did away with voter suppression and allowed for voter progression.

Likewise, the PLP of David Burt, the late Walton Brown, Lovitta Foggo, Derrick Burgess, Tinée Furbert and so many others, under Wayne Furbert, the Minister for the Cabinet Office, will bring in voter progression.

Last Friday, the Parliamentary Election Amendment Bill was passed in the House of Assembly. The following are some of the key amendments of this legislation:

At-home voting

During canvassing, we have found scores of persons around Bermuda who were of sound mind and spirit, but were unable to leave their homes because of physical conditions beyond their control.

It is unjust that in a sophisticated country such as ours that these individuals who have helped to build our island home are unable to participate in the democratic process.

With an ageing population, more and more of our beloved seniors will find themselves unable to leave the confines of their homes.

So I am happy to see that this government has taken the advice of the back bench and moved forward with this amendment.

Advance voting

It was not efficient for persons to have to go to Hamilton to the Parliamentary Registrar to show proof of travel to get a certificate. They then had to take this certificate to the advance polling station in order to cast their ballot.

We all know some people would find this laborious and simply just not go through this process.

So, with this amendment, persons can simply show up at the advance poll with the same proof of travel and cast their ballots.

Voting for parolees

In the age of Black Lives Matter, we are coming to grips with the systematic racism that has been put in place to hold back black people; in particular, black men.

For one reason or the other, approximately, 95 per cent of all persons incarcerated at present, or those who have been incarcerated in Bermuda, are black men. Of that number, 95 per cent are imprisoned for non-violent crimes.

Once they have served a portion of their time, they are released on parole for set periods.

As they return to society, these Bermudians work, pay taxes, take care of their families and contribute to our economy.

So why is it they could not get to vote?

As a progressive society, we must separate ourselves from those racist policies of the past and allow all who are breathing and are of sound mind the ability to vote.

So, thank you to Lovitta Foggo, the late Walton Brown and his successor, Wayne Furbert, for this progressive legislation.

Most of all, thank you to the Parliamentary Registrar, Tenia Woolridge, and her dedicated staff, which includes Assistant Parliamentary Registrar Michael Smith, Sheila Jones, Rownay Kerr and Kandrea Romaine, who helped to produce this wide range of electoral reforms.

Christopher Famous is the government MP for Devonshire East (Constituency 11). You can reach him on WhatsApp at 599-0901 or e-mail at carib_pro@yahoo.com

Looking ahead: the late Walton Brown Jr was key to laying the foundation for electoral reforms

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Published July 24, 2020 at 2:00 pm (Updated July 24, 2020 at 2:02 pm)

Electoral reforms show great progress

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