By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
AS the 2017 general election draws near, the number of constituencies in New Providence and the Family Islands is expected to increase by at least four seats with the Constituencies Commission set to finalise its report by the end of the month.
Several well-placed sources told The Tribune yesterday that the commission had “agreed in principle” for an additional two seats in New Providence, and an additional three seats in the Family Islands.
Although the majority of members have agreed on the increase, the group has not finalised how those changes will be reflected on the boundaries map.
One strong suggestion is splitting the MICAL constituency into two seats, with Inagua and Mayaguana to form one constituency and Acklins, Crooked Island and Long Cay the other.
Other considerations include splitting up the Exuma seat; splitting up the Rum Cay, Cat Island, and San Salvador seat; creating a new seat for Bimini and the Berry Islands; and a third new constituency for New Providence.
In 2011, the Constituencies Commission recommended that three seats should be cut from the 41 in Parliament at the time, bringing the total for the 2012 general election to 38.
Yesterday, House Speaker and Constituencies Commission Chair Dr Kendal Major said census data has confirmed expectations that there has been a significant population growth, and a population shift in some areas. While he only spoke generally about the progress of the commission, Dr Major confirmed that the body was on course to complete its recommendations and submit a report by November 30.
“We have met three or four times now, and we’re moving quite nicely,” Dr Major said.
“There has been some thoughts on rationale for adding in certain areas in New Providence and maybe the Family Islands, but nothing has been concretised as yet. We’re looking at statistics that have been extrapolated up to 2016, also last year’s data within the census, we have a lot of information, we’re not relying on the low registration numbers.”
Last week, The Tribune reported that nearly 57,000 people had registered to vote, a figure much lower compared to this same period before the 2012 general election, when about 79,000 additional people were registered by this point.
Parliamentary Commissioner Sherlyn Hall told The Nassau Guardian last Tuesday that this figure represents 34 per cent of estimated eligible voters as of November 4.
As a guest on a radio talk show the following day, Mr Hall said his office was troubled by low voter registration numbers to date.
Speaking to the sluggish pace of voter registration, Dr Major said he fully expected a “flood” of registrants in the coming months.
“I have been talking to my colleagues, MPs, senior officials in ministries, lots of them are not registered, and you and I know they will get registered,” Dr Major said. “They’re just laissez-faire, or say ‘if you come to my office I’ll do it.’ The fact that all these young people are registering, that’s a good idea and at some point there’s going to be a flood and it will come together quite nicely.”
The Constituencies Commission is comprised of Dr Major; Senior Justice Stephen Isaacs, vice chair; government members, Deputy Prime Minister Philip Davis and Jerome Fitzgerald; Official Opposition member East Grand Bahama MP K Peter Turnquest; and House clerks Maurice Tynes and David Forbes.