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OBA record on student absentee voting poor

Confused: Minister of Home Affairs Senator Michael Fahy seems unaware that despite countless promises over the past six years, there has been no legislation tabled with respect to absentee balloting by the OBA government

“This government stands very proudly on our record”

— Michael Dunkley, Premier of Bermuda, May 20, 2017

It would appear that Michael Dunkley is impressed with his administration’s own magic and appears to believe that such rhetoric represents the reality for all Bermudians. Surely, some high-order magic must have been involved in coming to that conclusion. The magic of self-deception is a very powerful magic indeed. As we all know, magic does not require rational explanation, but only a willingness and, dare I say, a desire to believe.

This opinion does not intend to address the entire panoply of failures and broken promises of the One Bermuda Alliance government. Instead, it specifically addresses the OBA’s failure to implement absentee voting for Bermudian students overseas.

The first promise by the OBA for absentee ballots for students came in the 2011 Throne Speech Reply, and has been repeated every year since. In the 2011 Reply, the OBA promised that it would “immediately overhaul the Parliamentary Elections Act to allow absentee ballots to students living abroad”.

In 2012, Craig Cannonier, then the leader, declared that the OBA could get the job done with ease: “There will be no difficulty in adopting a system whereby absentee ballots are made available to students who are on the voters list”. — November 12, 2012, statement published on oba.bm.

Nearly four years later and the OBA had yet to implement any absentee voting legislation, but they reiterated their promise by undertaking to have the absentee ballot legislation tabled during the new legislative session.

In January 2016, when announcing that the Government had no intention to extend the absentee ballot to Bermudians permanently residing overseas, then Minister of Home Affairs Senator Michael Fahy professed: “We have given the opportunity to students studying abroad and that is a good move and a good start.”

It remains unclear whether Senator Fahy was imagining this or if he was attempting to draw on the laws of attraction and “speak it into existence”, or if in fact he was just confused because it remains undeniable that despite countless promises over the past six years, there has been no legislation tabled with respect to absentee balloting by the OBA government.

It would appear, however, that the confusion isn’t restricted to Senator Fahy; even our Attorney-General is unsure.

At the Generation Next youth town hall meeting on June 22, 2016, when discussing the long-awaited amendments to the Parliamentary Election Act, Mr Moniz admitted: ‘I don’t know how close we are at this point.’

Six years later, on the heels of yet another General Election, not one piece of legislation has been tabled in the House of Assembly by the OBA government to allow for absentee voting for our island’s overseas students.

The OBA’s failure to implement absentee ballots for Bermudian overseas students drives a horse and carriage through their purported mantra of “inclusiveness” and it speaks volumes of their willingness to neglect and further disenfranchise young Bermudians who are overseas and will be unable to return simply to vote.

Indeed, it is true that former administrations had the opportunity to implement this legislation — I believe that they could have, they should have, and it remains that they did not. This is not, nor has it ever been, or could it ever be, an excuse for the OBA government’s failure to adhere to the promises made to Bermudians.

While I appreciate it will be a hard pill to swallow for some, this is an OBA report card — the OBA made the promises, the OBA has been in government for five years, and the OBA has failed to do what it said. Simple as that.

• $77 million budget allocated for the America’s Cup — OBA-approved

?• $39 million for Cross Island/America’s Cup Village — OBA-approved

• More than $1.5 million spent for a Commission of Inquiry — OBA-approved

?• $350,000 budget on a non-binding referendum — OBA-approved

• Millions of taxpayer dollars continue to be spent to pursue baseless and seemingly endless investigations/civil suits of leaders past and present — OBA-approved

• $31,566 for former sports minister Sylvan Richards’s nine-day trip to the Rio Olympics — OBA-approved

Undoubtedly, many will attempt to justify these expenses. However, can you, after five years justify the OBA’s neglect to ensure that Bermudian students overseas have the opportunity to exercise their right to vote?

After all, the youth of today are the leaders of tomorrow. It is often said that decisions are made in the interest of the future of Bermuda and young Bermudians. If that is truly going to be the case, it vitally important that we feel a part of and are able to contribute to the process.

The next government of Bermuda needs to implement this legislation in the first legislative session — nothing short of this will do.

•Eron Hill, who can be contacted at eronhill@live.com, is studying for an LLB Law Hons degree at the University of Law (Manchester)