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Calling for absentee voting

Jahdia Spencer is the Free Democratic Movement’s Youth Democratic Leader

In the ever-evolving landscape of democracy, one thing remains constant: the need for electoral reform to ensure good governance. Now more than ever, the call for inclusive representation resonates louder than before.

Central to this call for reform is the pressing issue of absentee voting, particularly for young people studying abroad. These young minds represent the future generation of voters, yet we find ourselves disenfranchised by electoral systems created by governments that fail to accommodate our physical and financial circumstances, especially during the time to call a general or by-election.

So, for a moment, just imagine being on the cusp of adulthood, eager to participate in shaping the future of your country, only to be sidelined because you happen to be outside its borders and can’t afford that expensive ticket to come back to vote. This is the reality faced by countless students almost every election cycle.

Bermudians studying abroad are educating themselves to come back and add to the country’s economy. Despite our aspirations to contribute, we are denied a crucial element of democracy: the right to vote.

The irony is stark when the Premier from both major parties has come to Britain on a yearly basis to ask, “Why aren't we coming back with our talents?” Yet all of them fail to acknowledge our exclusion from the democratic process.

Instead, politicians should ask themselves, “How can we expect students abroad to feel connected to our island when they’re denied a say in its future?”

In addition to Bermudian students studying abroad, a significant number of adults have also emigrated from Bermuda and may find themselves disenfranchised. These non-student Bermudian emigrants face similar challenges in maintaining their connection to their home country and exercising their democratic rights. The solution proposed for enfranchising students should be extended to encompass these adult emigrants, ensuring their voices are heard and their civic participation is facilitated.

This is not some radical idea; it is a reasonable way to build a democracy that includes all Bermudians, no matter where they live. If modern solutions allow the insurance and finance industries to operate globally, surely we can update our voting systems, too.

Excluding overseas Bermudians from voting leads to real frustration, discontent and disengagement. It is time for our political leaders to show true leadership by reforming our elections to make them more inclusive and representative of all citizens.

The Free Democratic Movement has listened to the numerous concerns and is calling for the introduction of absentee balloting for the next election, a measure we will ensure is implemented when we form the next government.

Rather than planning for Bermuda’s inclusive future, mainstream political parties prioritise divisive tactics just to gain more voters. The Free Democratic Movement’s focus is on building a future where every Bermudian feels valued and empowered.

That is why I accepted becoming the FDM’s Youth Democratic Leader.

If you are under 30 and want more influence on your future, I encourage you to sign up as an FDM member. Student membership is free but for those who are non-students and over the age of 18, it is a $50 annual membership fee.

Now is the time for change, and it starts by recognising how important electoral reform and overseas voting rights are for a more inclusive, representative democracy.

The FDM has set up branches across Britain, the United States and Canada so we can hear more from Bermudian citizens, regardless of where you are in the world.

Jahdia Spencer is the Free Democratic Movement’s Youth Democratic Leader. She can be reached at demojahdia@fdmbermuda.com

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