Vote on same-sex referendum day
Today is the day for Bermudians to go to the polls and have their say on same-sex marriage and civil unions.
Twelve polling stations across the island will open their doors at 8am for voters to cast their ballots in the referendum on same-sex relationships.
They will be asked to answer two questions on the ballot paper: are you in favour of same-sex marriage and are you in favour of civil unions?
Though the result will be non-binding, Michael Dunkley, the Premier, said yesterday: “Any outcome is the will of the people and will guide their elected officials accordingly.”
There are 44,367 Bermudians registered to vote in today's referendum. The two questions will only be considered “answered” if there is a voter turnout of 50 per cent (22,184) or more.
If the turnout is sufficient for a valid result, the answers will be deemed affirmative if more than 50 per cent of those who vote mark their ballot “yes”.
They will be deemed negative if more than 50 per cent mark their ballot “no”.
It is understood that the minimum number of votes needed for a definitive answer either way on each question, therefore, would be 11,313 (51 per cent).
The polling stations will close at 8pm and the results are expected to be announced much later in the evening.
Parliamentary registrar Tenia Woolridge told The Royal Gazette that six official vote counters would be based at each polling station and observers would be in attendance.
“All ballots will be counted at the polling stations,” she said.
“Once the count starts, which will probably be around 8.30 or 8.45pm, we will have to wait for them to finish counting and this will all depend on how many people showed up to vote in each region.
“Last election we had the last station finish at 2am. It's really hard to say what time it will all end.”
She said the results would be presented by region, with each of the 12 regions containing the votes from three constituencies.
The results will show how many people voted yes or no to same-sex marriage and how many voted yes or no to civil unions.
Ballots will be valid even if only one of the two questions is answered and the number of people who did not answer one of the questions will also be tallied, along with the number of spoiled ballots.
What will not be recorded is the individual vote combinations, ie, how many people voted yes and yes; no and no; yes and no; and no and yes.
Ms Woolridge said it was not possible for her to count all the combinations, adding: “We just can't do it by every person. The end results will tell us who wants what.”
Members of the public can follow the results of the referendum live at the parliamentary registry website at www.elections.gov.bm. The website was temporarily suspended yesterday afternoon but was due to be up and running again from noon today.
Yesterday, campaigners on both sides of the debate were continuing to push their message as the clock ticked down to the big day.
The “Vote Yes Yes” side has been releasing videos and images of supporters and, in the past few days, footage of the former Premier, Sir John Swan, and former MP Renee Webb giving their reasons for voting in favour have been shared.
One widely shared post on social media was from author and activist Junior Burchall, who listed a myriad of activities that gay and lesbian Bermudians could take part in, including holding high public office and representing Bermuda internationally.
Mr Burchall asked: “Would there have been a November 9, 1998, election victory for the Progressive Labour Party to celebrate, were it not for the active participation, brilliance, courage and leadership of its gay and lesbian membership?”
“Vote No Twice” campaigners have also been active, taking part in radio interviews and releasing online videos of their supporters, describing why they are against same-sex marriage and civil unions.
A post on Preserve Marriage's Facebook page says: “Don't be ashamed if you are for preserving marriage in Bermuda on June 23 by voting NO TWICE.
“You have a right and freedom to stand for marriage between a man and a woman. We can disagree and still love. No to SSM and no to same-sex civil unions because it is the engagement ring to same-sex marriage.”
Both sides are offering to help people get to the polls to vote. Preserve Marriage is giving rides to seniors and reminded them to check where to vote before calling the following numbers: 297-0239 in St George's, Hamilton Parish or Smith's; 296-3184 or 335-6899 in Devonshire or Pembroke; 236-7325 in Paget or Warwick; and 234-3250 in Sandys or Southampton.
The Rainbow Alliance, which is campaigning for a “yes yes” result, is urging people who “don't feel comfortable going to vote alone, need a ride, or just want someone to go with” to use the hashtag #WeCanGoTogetherBDA on Facebook.
Workers can ask for time off from their employer to go to vote and must take valid ID to the polling station, be that a commonwealth passport, Bermuda driver's licence, special persons' card, voters' identification card or employee identification card with a photograph, signature and date of birth.
Today's voting marks the first referendum in almost 21 years: the last was the independence referendum of August 16, 1995 — a notably troubled event, beginning with its hurried one-day postponement because of a near miss by Hurricane Felix, a Category 1 storm, on the night before the scheduled date of August 15.
Its postponement, which went ahead without Parliament convening, was challenged as illegal, and later the subject of a Commission of Inquiry.
The commission ultimately found that the postponement had been within the law.
Sir John, the Premier of the day under the United Bermuda Party, had staked his political career on a “yes” vote and consequently stepped down after the Bermudian public delivered an overwhelming “no”.
Getting the final tally also proved a long wait: polls closed at 9pm, with a result expected by 4am. While a final count took longer to obtain, the outcome was clear from early figures.
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The polls are open today between 8am and 8pm. Registered voters should go to the polling station listed below for their constituency.
If you do not know your constituency, you can confirm your registration details at any government post office or the Parliamentary Registry on the 3rd floor of the Craig Appin Building at 8 Wesley Street in Hamilton. You can also call 293-8683 or 295-5151.
The Parliamentary Registry website at www.elections.gov.bm was temporarily suspended yesterday but is expected to be working again by noon today. Voters must take valid ID to the polling station when they go to cast their ballot.
The polling stations are:
• Penno’s Wharf cruise ship terminal — St George’s North (1), St George’s West (2), St David’s (3)
• Francis Patton Primary School — St George’s South (4), Hamilton East (5), Hamilton West (6)
• Elliot Primary School — Hamilton South (7), Smith’s South (8), Smith’s West (9)
• Botanical Gardens Horticultural Hall — Smith’s North (10), Devonshire East (11), Devonshire South Central (12)
• National Sports Centre Pavilion — Devonshire North Central (13), Devonshire North West (14), Pembroke East (15)
• West Pembroke Primary School — Pembroke East Central (16), Pembroke Central (17), Pembroke West Central (18)
• Dellwood Middle School — Pembroke West (19), Pembroke South West (20), Pembroke South East (21)
• The Bermuda College Student Centre — Paget East (22), Paget West (23), Warwick South East (24)
• Windreach — Warwick North East (25), Warwick South Central (26), Warwick North Central (27)
• Heron Bay Primary School — Warwick West (28), Southampton East (29), Southampton East Central (30)
• Somers Isles Lodge — Southampton West Central (31), Southampton West (32), Sandys South (33)
• Somerset Primary School — Sandys South Central (34), Sandys North Central (35), Sandys North (36).