Young people; you are the youth of today, but the leaders of tomorrow. You are Generation Next! We must be able to begin a new era of excellence, strength, and ability to march forth and provide our country and her people what they truly deserve, a better Bermuda for all.
I’ve canvassed the thoughts and opinions of various young people about the current landscape of politics and whether or not they’d vote in the next election; I’ve been met with intellectual and articulate responses that are indicative to me of the fact that the youth are well aware of the oozing divides within our community, the urgent need for fiscal responsibility, and investing in our young Bermudians. The government and opposition alike should take notice that young Bermudians are paying attention.
On the other hand, there are those young people who don’t care to vote because they don’t see the importance of voting and feel that it doesn’t affect them. Although many may disagree, this is a legitimate concern shared by many young people. I ask these individuals to understand that their voice truly does matter and every vote counts. It is incumbent upon anyone when discussing the youth vote, and encouraging young people to get involved to briefly outline and discuss some of Bermuda’s voting history and the struggle fought on racial, gender, and socioeconomic lines.
1789- During this year legislation was passed to give statutory recognition to the property-based criteria for voters and candidates in general elections. This act established a minimum monetary value of forty pounds in order to vote and two hundred pounds in order to run for political office.
1841- This was the year that Bermuda officially recognized the United Kingdom Pound Sterling as legal tender. It followed that the property values legislated in 1834 for voting in general elections were converted to sixty pounds.
1944- The Women’s Suffrage Act was passed by the legislature; this act ended the prolonged struggle to secure the vote for women. However, this vote was still restricted to property owning women who were to be subject to the previously established monetary values of forty pounds to vote and two hundred pounds to run for political office.
1946- Dr EF Gordon delivered the Bermuda Worker’s Association Petition to the Colonial Office in Great Britain requesting an investigation into the restricted franchise, segregation, and limited occupational opportunities ‘for the great majority of the underprivileged and suffering inhabitants of Bermuda.’
1960- Roosevelt Brown, later known as Dr Pauula Kamarakafego led The Committee for Universal Adult Suffrage (CUAS) that campaigned for universal adult suffrage. This group sought the elimination of the property-based vote and the establishment of single-seat constituencies and strove for the democratic ideal of “one person, one vote, each vote of equal value”.
1966- The Parliamentary Election Amendment Act 1966 was passed during this year and abolished the “plus” vote and extended the franchise to include every adult Bermudian (by birth or grant) twenty-one years and over.
1968- This year saw the implementation of a written Constitution, which shifted most of the responsibility for the internal governance of Bermuda from the Governor to the elected representatives of the people and appointed members of the Legislature.
1989- The age eligibility of voters was changed from 21 to 18.
2003- It was in this year that the Constituency Boundary Commission’s Report received the endorsement of the House of Assembly which allowed the 2003 election to take place under the electoral format of thirty-six single seat constituencies. This year saw the implementation of “one man, one vote, equal vote”.
History is abundantly clear when it shows us that the powers in that day wanted to protect the elitist status quo of restricting the opportunities of a large percentage of Bermudians. In previous years, you would have to be a part of a certain racial, and economic class in order to vote. These struggles will be outlined and discussed in columns to follow in order to better understand exactly how far we’ve come as a country.
We have individuals like Dr EF Gordon, Dr Hilda Aitken and Mrs Edna Wadson to thank for their invaluable contributions in the fight for voting equality. The greatest way to honour those individuals and the many others who have fought for our right to vote is to exercise it.
It would be amazing to see a larger presence of young people vocalizing their concerns and input regarding the direction of this country. As a young person growing up in Bermuda, it is imperative to know that the government of the day is making decisions that will pave the way for a better and brighter future for Bermudians. Bermuda’s young people want to make a difference, they can make a difference, and together they will make a difference.
This country has a plethora of young people full of talent, potential and intellectual brilliance. With your input, effort and combined support there is nothing to stop you from achieving great things on behalf of our country.
I will be starting a voter registration drive concentrating on young people but open to all eligible to vote. We will assist in completing the requisite form(s) and submitting them to the Parliamentary Registry to ensure that as many young people are registered to vote as possible.
We will be handing out material regarding Bermuda’s voting history and parliamentary procedures. This literature will include two pieces entitled “The Evolution of Bermuda’s Franchise” and “How Bermuda’s Parliament Works” by Mr James E Smith, former clerk to the Registrar.
By Eron Hill
Eron Hill is a legal understudy at Compass Law Chambers. He is currently pursuing his LLB HONS Law degree at Durham University in the UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.