The Right* to Vote

June 2, 2012

Last month I vacationed for 14 glorious days in the Bahamas, dividing my time between the islands of Exuma and Eleuthera. During my week on Exuma, the Bahamians voted in national elections, held every five years. Their fervor was inspiring. Nearly every car was festooned with flags of one of the four main parties. Many citizens flew home from other countries to vote. Bahamians told me that the rancor separating supporters of the two most dominant parties, the Progressive Liberal Party and Free Party Movement, is every bit as intense as between Democrats and Republicans.

Next month the Bahamas celebrate nearly a half-century as an independent democratic nation. Universal suffrage came about in the early 1950s while the islands were still under British control. “The right to vote is the only right they can’t take away,” an employee at a George Town liquor store told me the day after the PLP won in a landslide. His confidence struck me as misplaced. And that was before I returned home to the United States and read about yet another thinly veiled attempt to keep people from voting in my increasingly undemocratic country.