Posted by: J Starling | July 24, 2009

Overseas Voting

I’ve long wondered why we don’t have overseas voting for our elections. As far as I’m concerned this is an important reform that would allow citizens to vote who may otherwise be disenfranchised due to being overseas at the time of an election. I can understand that some would fear that this could be abused with people who have not lived on the island for years having a say in the election. I think that there are some easy ways to avoid that. It is my opinion that the below would be adequate to avoid such abuse:

a) Restrict the overseas vote to i) those normally resident on the island; and ii) those working overseas on behalf of the government.
–> Those normally resident on the island would be those who are attending higher education overseas, or are working on a short-term (up to one year) contract for a Bermuda based company (overseas experience). Individuals under these criteria would have to prove they were attending education or on a contract, much as people currently apply for a deferrence of their Regiment duty. Proof of acceptance or a letter from the company invovled should be sufficient.
–> Those working overseas for the government would be people like the NY and London offices, or those in the civil service undergoing training overseas for example.

b) Instead of a mail-in vote, it could be possible to have a few centres for the poll. I would imagine that London, New York, Toronto, Montreal, Atlanta, Baltimore, Nassau, Kingston, Georgetown (Cayman) and Bridgetown should be sufficient. But I don’t see why we can’t just use a mail-in vote to be honest.

I understand that people will say this just adds another layer of bureaucracy, but I find it hard to understand why this would be the case. Surely the poll registry is computerised by now, and we can hold the mail-in date some weeks in advance of the vote itself to make sure the votes are counted at the same time. There would be a degree of added cost, but surely this is a more worthwhile expenditure than some of the other expenses currently incurred (travel costs for MPs for example…).


Responses

  1. You’ll never get this while the PLP are in power. If the UBP were to somehow get back in (or another party) it would be done immediately. The technology is simple and proven, using a web interface.

    I believe every citizen of Bermuda should be allowed to vote. That’s kind of the point of being a registered voter. Geographic situation shouldn’t matter. If I’m abroad for 10 years gaining valuable experience before returning, I should have a say.

    However. Think about it. How many Bermudians do you know off the island that support the PLP? Once you view their actions through a worldly lens, it becomes almost impossible to vote for them. I’m 100% certain if the PLP felt that this measure would help them, it would have been brought in. But it’ll hurt them, so we’ll never see it. Simple as. Same principle as scheduling elections when the largest number of a certain demographic are abroad on holiday. It’s political gamesmanship, the UBP would do the same.

    Elections should be open to all voters. The technology is there. The only barrier is fear of total representation.

  2. In the pre-1998 years the PLP criticised the UBP for scheduling elections at times when university students would be unable to vote – this was a factor in the 1998 election with both Parties trying to influence the vote by assisting with some students returning to vote.

    I had hoped that the PLP would rectify this problem after the more pressing issue of the Constituency Reforms – political reform of the system was one of the key arguments of Freddie’s for opposing the 1995 election. He said that before we go independent we need to change the political system to make it more just, more democratic. This is an issue that we need to address along those lines.

  3. I agree. I also support mandatory, scheduled elections, every 4 years on a specific day (say the second Tuesday of April, or something like that). Would remove the politicking from that and give both parties equal chance.

    (obviously emergency elections would be different)

  4. Hey Jon.

    You and I have already corresponded on this item. Did you have a chance to talk to the UK office I referred you to that runs many of these remote polling elections via online, mail, and walk-in? They are willing to help.

    There are so many checks and balances to prevent fraud, plus, because the election notices are MAILED, the onus is on the voters to ensure they are registered. If you don’t register, you forfeit your vote.

    These circulars also include various plebiscites, policy changes, candidate statements, etc. Each one is a separate ballot, with separate security codes. I think I still have them from the last one I did, so you can peruse when you return.

  5. Hey LIF, I was actually writing a thread on that issue when you posted, sorry.

    Renman, I did briefly look it over, but I haven’t had the time to devote a proper review as yet. Will do – but perhaps you may have the time to write up a more in-depth version for posting here?

  6. OK, since you asked nicely.

    A follow-up on the absentee voting methods we talked about earlier.

    If we are looking into absentee ballots for Bermuda, or even allowing the diaspora to vote, we have options like these guys who run an electoral service for the main engineering and other professional societies. I finished my latest round of voting at the beginning of this month.

    In these latest IET elections, I received three ballot forms, and three candidate booklets. The elections were for the Board of Trustees, the Americas Regional Board, the Global Operations Board, Knowledge Management Board, and Council 2009. The first two contests were on their own ballots. Each ballot has the same web address, http://www.votebyinternet.com/iet09

    When you get to the site, you are asked to input security code part one and security code part two. This leads you automatically to the particular part of the lection relevant to those codes. There is also an individual code for the form itself, but this is not required online. You make your choices as you see fit, then logout at the end.

    What’s interesting about this system is that you can also mail in the ballots, or, if you happen to be at the UK registry, hand them in there. And only registered professionals receive them. You are expected to register every year, and you are mailed and emailed reminders to do so. This step alone would solve the voter registration problem we have currently.

    A direct approach like this could potentially sort out the problems we have with voter registration and apathy. There is inclusion of mission statements by the candidates, and full listings of any changes to policy or regulations are included in each plebiscite. Every recipient is fully informed of all of their choices.

    And the numbers are very workable. There are more than 100 times as many registered engineers in the IET as there are total eligible voters in Bermuda. The IEEE in North America is another 10 times bigger than the IET. Our scale is small potatoes to these firms.

    Check them out.

    http://www.electoralreform.co.uk/

    When I receive the ones from the North American engineering groups I’m registered with, I will post that information too.

  7. Sadly how quickly a party forgets what it is like to be opposition once they get into power.

    Fair goes out the window as they become more concerned with winning because hey, it’s not about the people, it’s about the party and handing onto that sweet, sweet power.


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