Hundreds face being excluded from elections in the Isle of Man because of a lack of contingency plans for those self-isolating, it was claimed on the eve of polling.
Elections are due to take place in a third of the Isle of Man’s local authorities on Thursday, having been postponed twice due to Covid-19 restrictions.
But with case numbers rising, many people who need to isolate are said to have been unable to access alternative voting arrangements as a deadline for absentee ballots was seven days before polling day.
Devon Watson, a local councillor for Douglas Town, who tested positive for coronavirus on Monday, said: “This is going to have an obvious impact on the election, especially given the fact that local authority elections can be swayed by a couple of votes.”
“Many of us are just completely unable to vote as we are forced to stay at home due to isolation rules. But this seems as though we’re not allowed to go out and participate in the election process.”
As a young person, Watson said that he was part of a group that was disproportionately affected, adding: “When hundreds of people who are young are unable to vote, it is a violation of pretty basic and fundamental democratic principles”.
Coronavirus cases in the Isle of Man have risen exponentially over the past week, with an increase from 30 to 238 new cases between 13 and 19 July.
On Tuesday, an emergency question was tabled at Tynwald, the parliament of the Isle of Man, which was warned that hundreds of people risked being excluded from the democratic process.
Tim Baker, the minister for infrastructure, said that it was “not a widespread issue” and that the numbers of people who needed to isolate were relatively small.
However, local councillors and potential voters have argued that the numbers of people having to isolate may be significant enough to drastically affect the election results.
A spokesperson for the Isle of Man government said: “This matter has been looked at in-depth in recent days and is being taken extremely seriously. Everything that can be done is being done to ensure anyone who wishes to vote in the forthcoming elections is able to do so safely and legally.
“While the advice received to date indicates that a change to existing absent voter regulations may be technically feasible, it will be challenging to achieve in such a short time-frame as this will also “impact those local authorities who are organising the elections.
“For this set of elections this would therefore be Wednesday 14 July, and means that if a voter has not registered by this time then they cannot take advantage of the absent vote process. Within the current legislation, there are no other mechanisms to enable people to vote.”
The contests will take place in a third of the Isle of Man’s local authorities, including the areas of Castletown, Douglas, Peel, Santon, Onchan, Garff and Jurby.