Did you vote?
So, did you vote in the General Election last month? Really? Well you’re not alone, but the voter numbers may surprise you.
More than 20,000 registered Bermudian voters did not vote. Yes, more than 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 that, until now, has prided itself on having very high voter turnout.
No matter what your politics, October 1 was a bad day for Bermudian democracy.
“Did Not Vote” won by a landslide.
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. More than 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 Progressive Labour Party — 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 per cent of Bermuda’s 46,311 registered voters, where does that leave everyone else?
Sure, some element of the low turnout is owing 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 longstanding desire for independence has not diminished. The PLP intends to grab the corporations of Hamilton and St George. And the PLP’s Basic Plan for healthcare reform is still barrelling down the tracks — even though very few want to board that train because of 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…
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 One Bermuda Alliance would have won two more seats than the 19 that gave it the win.
So why did only 34 per cent show up to vote PLP this time?
And just in case those 34 per cent who voted PLP think I’m being overly partisan here, I fully recognise the OBA vote collapsed as well.
Five thousand, five hundred and twenty-three 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 might have secured ten 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 fewer 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.
Every vote matters.
• Scott Pearman is the Shadow Minister of Legal Affairs and Transport, and the MP for Paget East (Constituency 22)