ALEXIS CREDITS TO EXEMPLARY STATEMANSHIP BY GOVERNMENT AND OPPOSITION THE UNANIMOUS AGREEMENT ON CHANGES TO CONSTITUENCY BOUNDARIES IN BERMUDA
St. George -- Dr Francis Alexis QC, Chairman of the Constituency Boundaries Commission established by the Constitution of Bermuda, is highlighting the unanimous agreement reached last week by the Commission to recommend that the House of Assembly make certain changes to the boundaries of some of the constituencies into which Bermuda is divided.
Dr Alexis credits this agreement to exemplary statesmanship by the governing One Bermuda Alliance ('OBA') of Premier Hon Mr. Michael Dunkley JP, MP and the opposition Progressive Labour Party ('PLP') of the Opposition Leader, Hon Mr. David Burt JP MP. The enormity of this statesmanship is emphasised, Alexis adds, by the fact that, with Bermuda having thirty-six (36) constituencies for its voters, changing constituency boundaries is a demanding challenge.
When agreement was reached, two of the four parliamentary members of the Commission were Mr. Sylvan Richards JP MP and Mr. Mark Pettingill JP MP, selected in October 2015 by the Premier; the other two were Mr. Michael Scott JP MP and Mr. Jamahl Simmons JP MP, selected in February 2016 by the Opposition Leader. The choice of the judicial member, The Hon Mr. David Jenkins, Chief Justice of Prince Edward Island-Canada, and the Chairman in October 2015, were in the discretion of the Governor, then HE Mr. George Ferguson.
Higher National Interest
While both OBA and PLP have their own respective perspectives on constituency boundaries, they both elevated above those party concerns the higher national interest in promoting the mission of the Constitution.
The Constitution requires that, from time to time, the Commission review the constituency boundaries and report thereon to the House. In deciding whether or not to recommend any changes in the boundaries, the Commission has to ensure that the constituencies contain, as far as reasonably practicable, equal numbers of persons qualified to be registered as electors. This is to achieve equality of votes. The Commission has to consider the constitutionally prescribed factors; as geographical features, natural boundaries and contiguity of constituencies.
Maximum Vote Equality-Minimum Voter Confusion
The Commission had eight meetings of its own and four public consultations. It drew upon the 2010 Report of the previous Commission, written submissions from members of the public, professional geographic information systems expertise from Dr Kevin Mayall and voter registration data provided by the Parliamentary Registrar Ms. Tenia Woolridge. The Commission noted that the final Report on the 2016 Census would likely not be ready until after September 2018, which would be too late for the Commission to meet its constitutional time line.
On all those factors, the Commission agreed to recommend that there be a maximum tolerance for deviation of seven percent (7%) from the mean number of voters per constituency. This mean, the average number of estimated eligible voters in each constituency, is 1,480. Ten (10) constituencies fall outside of this tolerance for deviation of 7% from the mean.
This 7% deviation from the mean would maximise attainment of the goal of 'equal vote of equal value', to ensure one-person one-vote of equal value. At the same time, it would minimize confusion caused to voters by being moved from one constituency to another.
Through the Governor to the House
New maps and related legal descriptions of the recommended changes are being prepared professionally. These, as part of the Report of the Commission will, in due course, be submitted to the Governor HE Mr. John Rankin.
Through the Governor, the Report will be submitted to the House for the House to decide whether or not to make an Order approving the Report.
Tenia K. Woolridge JP MSc.
On Behalf of the Constituency Boundaries Commission