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Speaker’s vote secures move to create elections review committee

House Speaker Randolph Horton tipped the vote in favour of the Opposition on Friday on Walton Brown’s resolution to establish a Select Committee on elections.

The move came after MPs voted in a tie when Public Safety Minister Michael Dunkley tried to have the resolution amended.

The resolution carries a mandate for a Select Committee on elections with the “mandate of examining and reviewing any matter relating to elections and report its findings and recommendations to Parliament”.

The resolution was ultimately approved by both sides of the House.

However, Mr Dunkley moved to amend the motion to say “that this House take note of the measures to be taken by the Government of Bermuda to examine and resolve the challenges relating to Bermuda elections and the electoral process”. Essentially the amendment would have eliminated the need for a Select Committee.

The issue came down to a vote that ended up 15 to 15 — leaving the Speaker with the deciding vote.

Said Mr Horton: “I see that the original motion certainly is looking to bring about, I believe, increased improvement of democracy and I’m going to vote to say that the original motion should be carried and vote no on this.”

His response triggered a loud round of foot stomping on the part of the Opposition.

Mr Horton continued: “Let me just explain that I see this as an opportunity for all members of the House to participate in improving how the electoral process is carried out.”

Mr Brown in his opening remarks told MPs: “What is proposed by this motion is to critically assess the way we run elections, to critically assess the policies and the procedures that are in place.”

He expressed “deep concern” that in one of the first attempts to assess the Government’s commitment to transparency and openness, “there is an attempt to block it”.

“It’s a cynical attempt to minimise the democratic process when this motion is for the establishment of a Select Committee of both sides of this Parliament to address a fundamental issue in our country,” said Mr Brown.

“And the Government proposed to bring forward a take note motion to bring forward a take note motion which has no substance behind it, no ability to analyse, to assess and to report to this chamber.

“We are meant to be the beacons of democracy, we are meant to examine issues and come back before the people who put us here to assess such matters. And so I’m taken aback by the initial attempt by the OBA Government,” he added.

He stressed that the motion is designed to have a Select Committee examine “whether the existing legal framework for conducting elections is clear”.

But Health Minister Patricia Gordon-Pamplin said an independent electoral commission could be established — “to take Members of Parliament out of the process, so that we could start to look at how to effectively manage something that hasn’t been well-managed historically”.

The take-note motion, she added, “had nothing to do with trying to squash the motion”.

Mr Brown’s resolution passed with the unanimous support of MPs.

Speaker of the House Randolph Horton

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Published June 24, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated June 24, 2013 at 12:14 am)

Speaker’s vote secures move to create elections review committee

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