As the dust settles on the 2019 election in the British Virgin Islands, former BVI/UK representative Benito Wheatley is calling on the authorities to implement new ways to capture the ballots of Belongers who live away from the BVI.
“We know that the voter turnout was down and a part of that is, I suspect, many persons did not return to the territory after they were displaced from the hurricanes. So we really need to figure out how to get voting done to ensure that those people will not miss the opportunity to vote,” he told BVI News.
“There is so much at stake here, and I think it was incumbent on the authorities to make it happen and I hope that they will look at it over the next four years and put something in place.”
Wheatley, who lived outside the BVI while serving as a diplomat, said the territory can pattern after other countries who have similar systems in place.
“Absentee voting is nothing strange … there are examples of how it can be done, and we should not be afraid to consider it,” he said.
I wasn’t surprised at the results
In the meantime, Wheatley said he wasn’t surprised by the outcome of the General Election which saw the Virgin Islands Party sweeping the majority to form the next government.
“When I looked at the arithmetic of this election in terms of looking at districts one to nine and the parties that had district candidates, the VIP was the only one that had 13, and the others had less,” he said.
He said in such a competitive race, political parties who were short on district candidates did themselves a disservice in getting votes for their At-Large candidates.
“What happened to the VIP is that they racked up At-Large numbers all the way through every district and the total number put them over the top. So I think it is a lesson to be learned by the rest of the other political parties who did not win as many seats. If you want to be competitive in a multi-party political system, you need to have a full slate of candidates to win. That’s what I thought of ahead of the election, and it seemed just to play out that way,” he noted.
Hold VIP accountable
He also wasted no time to urge residents to “hold the VIP to account for what they have promised” during their campaign.
He said he was also pleased that the people of the territory had four political parties to choose from and urged them to unite to rebuild the country.
Wheatley also commended the government for a ‘well-organised election’ particularly for integrating ballot tallying technology this year.
“I think we have set a new standard for elections which we can be proud of and be an example for other territories and countries,” he said.
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