After hours of deliberating behind closed doors, legislators passed a law on Tuesday designed, in part, to facilitate electronic voting and eliminate the need to count ballots by hand.
Most of the 33 clauses in the Elections (Amendment) Act, 2019 seek to make a distinction between the procedures for a manual voting system and for an electronic voting system, Premier Dr. Orlando Smith said when he introduced the bill last week.
With the new system, paper ballots will still be used, but after voters cast their ballot the votes will be scanned and tabulated electronically.
“This new system, Madam Speaker, is aimed at ensuring a more efficiently run general elections,” he said.
Dr. Smith also said last week that the supervisor of elections has assured him that education about the use of the new scanner and tabulator will continue leading up to this year’s general elections.
The final law has not been made public, but other clauses in the draft allow for more people to vote at advance polls — including prisoners on remand and anyone travelling in advance of the election date — and provide for a code of conduct for political parties and candidates.
“I think we all agree, Madam Speaker, that [the latter clause] has become a much needed provision as the election and campaigns continue,” the premier said.
Debate over system
Many lawmakers agreed that the amendments — and an electronic voting system — have been a long time coming.
Some opposition members, however, found fault with certain aspects of the act, including its timing.
Opposition member Andrew Fahie wondered why government has taken four years since the last election to make necessary changes.
“And now we’re on the eve of elections, to amend an election act, bring in a voting machine,” he said. “Yes, Madam Speaker, I am young and I love my technology and I believe in it, but the anxiety of all these changes on the eve of the election has created a hysteria in the territory to a lot of persons.”
Mr. Fahie said government should “double up” on public relations about the electronic voting system to make people feel more comfortable.
“Nobody’s against change,” he added. “This needed to be done from long. Whether it be the government or whoever who was supposed to do it, it was supposed to be done from a long time ago.”