Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Opposition parties expressed concerns over the security of overseas voting... ...said they fear the process could be open to tampering

Opposition parties concerned about overseas voting

By Taneka Thompson
Guardian Senior Reporter

The Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) and the Democratic National Alliance (DNA) yesterday expressed concerns over the security of overseas voting and said they fear the process could be open to tampering.

Fox Hill MP Fred Mitchell, a former Cabinet minister in the Christie administration, said each party is allowed agents to monitor the collection of ballots, but he questioned whether they will be able to do this in every case.

“We need to sponsor the political parties to have agents at these polling places.  Each political party is supposed to have an agent who is supposed to monitor the ballots, the sealing of the box to ensure there is no hanky-panky,” said Mitchell.  “Now that you have these polling places overseas, the question is can the political parties afford to send an agent to do it?”

DNA Leader Branville McCartney had similar worries.

“We want to know the process in these various embassies to ensure the voting process is done properly and fairly,” he said.

“[The DNA is] not totally satisfied.  I’m not casting any blame really on the government or otherwise but human nature as it is and persons with their different preference(s) in terms of political allegiance, we do have some concerns.”

The DNA is preparing to take its message to Bahamian students enrolled in colleges overseas.

Last week, several senior members of the PLP, including party leader Perry Christie, met with students in Florida and Atlanta.

The trip marked the fourth time the PLP spoke with students enrolled in colleges abroad.

The PLP plans to take its campaign to Washington, DC, and New York.

Mitchell, who attended the student meetings, said connecting with young and first-time voters is crucial.

The DNA said it will kick off its overseas campaign soon, with planned visits to Jamaica and Canada.

McCartney said his party will also use Skype, Internet video conferencing, to reach out to students who are abroad.

Last week, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham said he is focused on campaigning at home and not grandstanding overseas.

“I am here.  I am here in The Bahamas.  I campaign here.  I don’t do such things.  I’m not a showboater.  I visit all the constituencies and on the 11th of this month we will visit North Andros, on the 18th we will be in Exuma...that’s where I am,” Ingraham told reporters on the sidelines of a rally in San Salvador last week.

Parliament passed ammendments to the Parliamentary Elections Act enabling eligible Bahamians to vote outside the country.  This includes students, staff at Bahamian embassies, high commissions or other foreign missions, and their spouses or members of their immediate families who live with them.

These voters will be able to vote in an advanced poll.  Their votes will be stored in sealed ballot boxes which will be returned to The Bahamas and delivered to the parliamentary commissioner.

Feb 07, 2012