By LAMECH JOHNSON
Tribune Staff Reporter
THE TWO questions for the January 28th gambling referendum that will decide the future of gambling in the Bahamas were revealed last night by National Security Minister Dr Bernard Nottage.
In his national address to the country, Dr Nottage announced the questions in accordance with the order of Governor-General Sir Arthur Foulkes who, yesterday, ordered for a referendum on the issue to be held on January 28.
“As stipulated by that order,” Dr Nottage said, “Bahamians will be presented with two questions.”
“The first question reads as follows; Do you support the regulation and taxation of Web Shop gaming? The second question reads as follows; Do you support the establishment of a National Lottery?”
Voters, he added, in accordance with section 59 of the 2012 Referendum Regulations, must “place one cross only in the space opposite the word ‘yes’ if he supports the question, or in the space opposite the word ‘no’, if he does not support the question.”
“Fellow Bahamians, the procedures to be followed in the conduct of this national Referendum for the most part mirror those that are followed in voting at General Elections for members of the House of Assembly. However, in the case of a Referendum there are no political candidates. Instead, as indicated there are questions to which the voter is to answer
either “yes” or “no”. A “Yes” vote means you support the question and “No” vote means you do not.”
“The result of the poll will be determined by a simple majority of the number of “Yes” versus the number of
“No” votes”, the national security minister said.
The Parliamentary Commissioner will hold a briefing session with Local Observers to advise them of their role in the referendum prior to the advanced poll.
Dr Nottage also emphasized that only those who were eligible to vote in last year’s general elections will be allowed to vote in the polls of the gambling referendum.
“Persons who reached the age of eighteen (18) after May 7th and all other eligible Bahamians who have not yet registered may still do so. The voters register will close on the 10th January 2012. Anyone not registered by then will not be eligible to vote.”
In last night’s address, important dates in lead up to January 28’s referendum were also touched on.
The Parliamentary Commissioner will publish notification of the Referendum tomorrow January 4. The Voter Register closes on January 10 and January 19, the Voter Register will be certified by the parliamentary commissioner.
Regarding persons interested in voting but unavailable on the day in question due to being out of the jurisdiction or other reasons, the minister said that an advanced poll will take place on January 21.
“On Monday, 21st January, 2013 an advanced poll, inclusive of overseas voting, will take place. Qualified
persons who are desirous of voting in the advance poll either as an overseas voter or a special voter have until Thursday, 10th January, 2013 to submit the relevant completed application form to the Parliamentary Commissioner.”
“For those persons who reside overseas, a completed Form J must be submitted. Special
voters, namely election officials, those who on referendum day are likely to be
hospitalized, undergoing medical attention, etc., must complete Form K.”
While it was noted that there would be no election agents in the referendum, regulations “empower” the minister to appoint a maximum of three local observers per polling station to ensure fairness of the process “including at least two persons representing the views of those members of the public interested in the “yes” and “no” vote.”
“The appointment of the Local Observers shall be made in writing and signed by the Minister,” he added.
The minister concluded his address by highlighting the importance of the populace voicing their issue and position on the regulation and taxing of Web Shops and the establishment of a National Lottery.
“Let me remind you, that while for the purposes of the efficient management of the Referendum you will be voting
within your constituency, the results of the Referendum will be determined by a simple majority of the total number of votes cast nationally for each question.”
“The Government is committed to participatory democracy and believes in the timeless tenet that public policy
should consistently reflect the collective will, desires, aspirations and sensibilities of you the Bahamian people. We pledge to be guided by this fundamental ethical and democratic principle through all of our deliberations on your behalf.”
“The Government of The Bahamas encourages all Bahamians to exercise their right, to express their views freely, to conduct themselves peacefully and to be tolerant of the views of others,” he concluded.