(CNS): The Elections Office will be ready for a general election under the new system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single member constituencies no matter when an election is called, deputy governor has said. Franz Manderson told the Legislative Assembly Wednesday that the legal drafters have finished the work on the changes to the Elections Law and it was expected to be before Cabinet soon. Although the premier recently said he didn’t think the required amendments to election legislation would be ready to bring to the LA until the meeting after the budget, Manderson was much more confident that everything that needed to be done, including the launch of a public education campaign next month, was in hand.
“Whatever happens, we will be ready. That’s the job of the Elections Office,” the deputy governor assured the Legislative Assembly as he answered questions about preparations for Cayman’s first ever election under the new system.
He said the office was already actively working towards the implementation of the new nineteen single member constituencies and around twenty people are now working on preparations in various capacities, both full and part-time. This includes working out the supply and logistic needs for the voter registration drives as well as street address audits and IT requirements, and he said training was also underway for returning officers.
Following the start of a social media campaign, Government Information Services was working on a traditional media campaign regarding voter education to start in May, and by July a full education campaign and registration drive would be underway, including teams going door to door.
However, Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush asked how the Elections Office would be able to pull off an election under the new system if the government was to call an early election, which he said had not been ruled out by the premier. Bush, who is opposed to the change in the electoral system, said it sounded like there was a tremendous amount of work to do, as he queried how government would manage to educate voters in time, since a broad public education campaign was required.
Manderson told legislators if that was to happen then schedules for all of the plans would be brought forward post-haste, with the changes to the election law pushed through as a priority. But he said he was confident in the abilities of the elections team and that the supervisor of elections was very capable, with three strong deputies.
“I am confident, if an election is called, he can accelerate the plans and deliver a free and fair election,” Manderson added.
Speaking on the radio last week, Premier Alden McLaughlin said that the law was not ready and that he did not have control over the drafters, though he did say that the elections would be conducted under OMOV and there was “no going back on that”.
Although he stated that he was no longer contemplating an early vote, he said he had been and might be again.
“If a point comes that I am unable to get the country’s work done, I have a duty to go to the governor,” he said, as he pointed to the challenges posed by operating with a government with just a one-member majority, given that his tenth member is in the speaker’s chair.
He said it was putting immense pressure on the government because having just one person away meant he could not operate. “If one person goes to the restroom at a crucial time or falls sick, I am in difficulty,” McLaughlin said as he pointed to the challenges posed by the defections that his government suffered between November and January.
Nevertheless, the premier said he was still reasonably comfortable that he would get through the packed agenda this week in the LA, steer the government’s first ever 18-month budge and do the best he could to work through to the end of the term.
However, if it went from being difficult to impossible, McLaughlin said he would have to consider going to the governor about an early election.