Currently, there is some discussion on whether Barbadians who reside permanently outside of Barbados, should be allowed to vote in Barbados’ general elections. Let me provide my view on this matter.
First, some statistics. In the 2003 general election, the difference in votes cast for the two parties was 14,548 votes. In the 2008 general election, it was even less; only a mere 8,819 votes determined the winner. Currently, about 105,000 Barbadians permanently reside overseas.
If we are to assume that Barbadians who live overseas share a similar population demographic as Barbados residents, then it is likely that those Barbadians who reside overseas would be the deciding factor for Barbados elections.
Successful politicians attempt to communicate directly with those whom they wish to represent. Door to door visits, mail out pamphlets, and mass meetings are deemed essential. In previous elections, there was barely enough, or insufficient time during the formal campaign period to cover the local constituency.
If Barbadians overseas are allowed to vote in Barbados’ general elections, then politicians would be forced to fund costly campaigns, not only in Barbados, but also among all nations wherever Barbadians may be found in order to solicit their votes.
Currently, the technology exists where voters in various countries can be informed about candidates for elections, and view televised debates at very little cost. In some international professional organisations, like the Institution of Structural Engineers who have approximately 23,000 members in 105 countries, the elections are managed so that all campaigning and voting is done over the Internet.
If Barbados chooses a similar fair election management system, where all voters are identified, informed about the candidates and their positions on issues, and allowed to vote regardless of their location (i.e. over the Internet), then non-resident Barbadians should be allowed to vote in Barbados’ general elections. However, to introduce such a system before establishing the essential election management framework, is, in my opinion, ill advised.
Ps: I used Rihanna to embody all Barbadians who live overseas.