NASSAU, The Bahamas, Friday May 5, 2017 –The man in charge of the country’s electoral process is not taking the blame for Wednesday’s controversial advanced poll, which was riddled with problems.
In fact, Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall is pointing fingers at Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security, Carl Smith.
Wednesday’s early voting, a week ahead of the May 10 general elections in which 180,000 are eligible to cast their ballots, was chaotic from all accounts.
The polling station at the Kendal Issacs Gymnasium, the only one in New Providence where almost three quarters of the Bahamian population lives, opened its doors more than an hour behind the scheduled 8 a.m. start, after ballot boxes were delivered late.
Thousands of early voters had to endure lengthy delays, some waiting as long as five hours in the sun to exercise their franchise.
In addition, some voters claimed their names were not on the advanced poll register, although they had applied to vote early. And residents of the Family Islands complained they were only advised on the same day that they could not do early voting in their communities and had to travel to Nassau instead.
But Hall told reporters at a news conference yesterday that the chaos was not his fault, but instead the result of insubordinate or misguided officials within his department who did not follow his “directives” and instructions.
He suggested that Smith, whom he appointed as senior returning officer for the advanced poll, was the one to blame for the decision to have one polling station instead of two locations as originally planned.
“I delegated that function to Mr Smith as returning officer. He would have made the decision.
“A week or two before, we published in the newspaper that the advanced poll would be held at two locations: the gym and the national stadium. Somehow along the way – he can speak to that – the decision was made just to use the gym. I gave specific instructions. We all agreed we’d use two locations – the gym as well as the stadium,” Hall said.
He insisted that his competency should not be judged by his department’s ability or inability to deliver.
There have been calls for Hall to go, with Former Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham who previously raised questions about his competence for the job, going further by urging Bahamians to fire Prime Minister Christie after the messy vote.
Prime Minister Perry Christie has ordered a report into what unfolded on advanced polling day, and said the findings would guide his decision on the way forward ahead of next Wednesday’s general elections.
“We are going to make the right decision for the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, Hall confirmed his contract had expired and he would not be seeking an extension.
It is unclear who will oversee the next Wednesday’s poll.