Let’s pretend that today is December 17th, 2012. You wake up and head to your constituency’s voting station with personal identification in hand.  You step up to the Polling Officer, and are advised of new rules requiring that you disclose which party you intend to vote for before you are allowed to vote. 

You state, ‘Party X’, and the Polling Officer responds, “I’m sorry, but you aren’t allowed to vote.  Only those who vote for Party Y get to vote in this election.”

When news broke about Judge Ian Kawaley’s decision giving PRC’s the right to vote, my first thought was that this would be the easiest decision to make morally, but the most difficult decision to make politically. For some voters it’s a no-brainer, but for others it’s a red line that must not be crossed. This issue isn’t just about human rights.  It’s also about the balance of political power.

Any discussion of granting PRCs the right to vote must therefore reflect upon Bermuda’s racial make-up, political history and specific actions designed to favour one political party over the other. 

Issues like the property vote, dual-seat constituencies, granting status to UK residents, unequal constituency sizes, preventing absentee voting and arbitrary election calls, have almost always been first and foremost about benefitting the party in power.

Convincing blacks that nothing has changed is instrumental in justifying why PRCs should still be denied voting rights.  We’ve heard it many times before —  blacks support the UBP, OBA, etc., while whites only vote for the UBP or OBA and never for the PLP.  

The political logic is meant to convince black voters that whites don’t support the PLP now for the same reasons they didn’t support the PLP in the ‘60s. Therefore, you shouldn’t increase the white voter base.

But let’s pause for a second. What’s the percentage of blacks who represent the swing-voter base? Is it 15%, 20%, 30%? Would it then be fair to claim that somewhere between 70-85% of blacks only support the PLP, and therefore are morally no better than whites in this regard? 

Isn’t it also contradictory and hypocritical to praise blacks for being more diverse than whites, but to then attack those black swing voters for supporting the OBA?

Bermuda has a long way to go, but it has come a long way over the last 50 years.  For non-believers, black CEOs, law and accounting partners don’t exist. 

Black insurance and investment professionals are a myth. Non-believers can stand outside Brown & Co and profess that whites don’t support black businesses. 

They’ll ignore the large numbers of whites who mentor black kids in Big Brothers/Big Sisters and YouthNet. They’ll dismiss racially-integrated events like Beach Fest, because such evidence of change contradicts their skewed political view and conflicts with their political agenda.

B

y extension, the current PRC problem for the PLP is that it has rejected inclusiveness. “Real Bermudians” should recall that Alex Scott expressed a strong desire to be more inclusive with his 2003 Social Agenda, and how this was soon replaced by Ewart Brown’s militant, plantation rhetoric. 

And what of the PLP today? Inclusive parties don’t endorse or promote individuals who practise racial separatism. 

Inclusive parties reprimand and reject members who unapologetically practise bigotry or incite violence. Inclusive parties don’t have leaders who claim that 40% of the electorate supports a demonic political party. Clearly, the PLP is still on the same path, and thus they will seek to block PRCs obtaining the right to vote.

But granting the right to vote shouldn’t be based upon which party you would vote for. It should be based upon whether or not we see that PRC applicant as one of us. 

Personally, I cannot accept that a spouse of a Bermudian should obtain the right to vote before someone who was born here, raised here and has paid tax here all their lives. Something tells me that a PRC applicant has a better chance of getting voting rights by marrying a divorced spouse of a Bermudian. This can’t be right now, can it?

Denying the right to vote because the UBP stacked the deck in the ‘60s also seems immoral. As reprehensible as the practice was, people were invited here by the Government, and this country has arguably benefitted from it. 

In my view, it’s immoral to punish PRCs for something the UBP did 50 years ago.

Nevertheless, in spite of all of the reasons I think that PRCs should be granted the right to vote, it would be wrong for the OBA to leave things as they are. A decision of this magnitude must be weighed up, debated and voted upon in the House.

As much as I have no respect for the poisoned rhetoric coming from the PLP at large, I think that Walton Brown is absolutely right on this issue. The voters’ representatives should ultimately decide, and not a judge who wasn’t required to consider the social impact of his decision. 

Feedback: bryanttrew@mac.com