The Bahamas may not issue biometric voter cards before general election next year
A government minister says the technological upgrades that would be necessary for The Bahamas to issue biometric voters’ cards, as approved by parliament, may not be possible in time for the general election next year, reports The Tribune.
The Bahamas has been gradually introducing technological upgrades to the country’s voting process amidst recovery from Hurricane Dorian, which struck in September 2019. An amendment was made to the Parliamentary Elections Act, passed late last year, which allowed for the future distribution of biometric voting cards, and phasing out of traditional paper cards.
“The work is forthcoming, the Act is now updated and given the stage that we are at now we want this to be kind of gradual,” says Marvin Dames, the Bahamas’ National Security Minister. “We don’t want to cause any major upheaval or confusion a year or more out of elections.”
Dames stated that a biometric national ID card was in the works, but declined to provide a timeline.
The Tribune suggests that remote voting is desired by some in The Bahamas to avoid risk of COVID-19 transmission from in-person voting during the pandemic, but it is not currently possible.
“We have to get those critical amendments in Parliament to have them debated and now it’s the process of implementation,” Dames notes. “Implementation is more than just saying let’s get a biometric card.”
A permanent register was also introduced as part of the Parliamentary Act, currently comprising 186,763 voters. Centers for voter registration opened on the 15th of February, with around 20,000 new voters expected, and paper cards will continue to be used while biometric cards are in development.
Bahamian biometric passports were announced in 2017 with contactless chips and digital signatures.