Court ruling raises questions for next election

| 09/05/2016 | 18 Comments
Cayman News Service

Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell and Deputy Supervisor of Elections Suzanne Bothwell

(CNS): Elections officials say it is unlikely they will stop candidates from standing for election, even if questions are raised about their qualification, and that the onus will be on would-be politicians to ensure they meet the constitutional requirements. Since the chief justice’s ruling on the qualification of Tara Rivers in 2013 stood in sharp contrast to the disqualification before the election of at least one other hopeful, the Elections Office has made recommendations to government regarding amendments to the law and will be advising candidates. But officials admitted that questions remain around qualification.

Speaking at a press briefing on Friday, Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said he was not in a position to interpret the chief justice’s long ruling in the Rivers’ case or the “legalese” in it. He said the office would be advising where it could but leaving candidates to decide for themselves the risk of a potential election challenge where there are questions about dual nationality, residency requirements or other issues that could disqualify a candidate from nomination.

On Nomination Day in 2013, Richard Christian was prevented from standing in Bodden Town by the Elections Office, based on advice from the attorney general, because he held a US passport, whereas Rivers, who also has both a US and a Cayman passport, was not banned from standing in West Bay.

After winning a seat in the district she faced a legal challenge over the US passport and the fact she was living in the UK for several years during the seven-year residency period before the election date, but she successfully defended both grounds.

See judgement in Hewitt v. Rivers et al

In the same election, however, some candidates opted not to run because of potential questions over these two issues and some denounced their US citizenships in order to stand, which created inequity in the field.

Howell said the Elections Office would be raising these nomination qualification questions and related issues during the candidate education programme before the election. He also said the office was seeking advice from Chief Justice Anthony Smellie about his ruling, in conjunction with the recommendations from the overseas election observers who visited Cayman in May 2013.

The supervisor explained that the chief justice’s ruling was based on a constitutional challenge and while the Elections Law needs to be brought in line with the Constitution and the Elections Office has offered advice to government, the interpretation by the court of the constitutional provisions are beyond its remit.

“The best we can do is interpret the law as the court has stated,” said Deputy Elections Supervisor Suzanne Bothwell. “The onus was, and still is, on the person putting themselves forward as a candidate to ensure that they are qualified,” she added, as she advised potential candidates to consider their own personal circumstances.

The officials said candidates must make their own determinations on whether they are qualified. Bothwell said where questions are asked, the Elections Office will seek the advice of the Attorney General’s Office. She said it was likely they would not prevent anyone from running but would make observations about the qualification query.

“Moving forward, it may very well not be up to the Elections Office to say we are not going to accept a nomination,” she said. Candidates would have to take their chances, she added, admitting that interpretations were not as clear as they would like.

The findings of the court that Rivers was not disqualified because she had acquired her passport as a result of the circumstances of her birth has set a precedent that means many would-be candidates, many of whom may have a US passport, can now run without giving up their entitlement to what many people consider a valuable second passport.

Although Rivers was not continually resident in Cayman for the full seven years before the elections, the chief justice considered that the constitutional provision that excludes people attending educational institutions applied.

Rivers, now the education minister, was working at a large London law firm for some of the seven years prior to elections. However, the court found that it a form of professional training and that, since she had not given up her home in Cayman, she was therefore resident in both London and West Bay at the time.

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Category: Elections, Politics

Comments (18)

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  1. Jotnar says:

    Anyone see the irony in the Elections Office wanting to spend $1.5m of taxpayers money to educate the public on how and where to vote, when its not prepared to provide any advice on who is qualified to run for office?

    • Carson says:

      Money should have been spent to educate the general public BEFORE one man, one vote was implemented. This is a case of the cart before the horse/donkey!

      Most people can see right through this BS, yet nothing is changing for the better.

      What power do we really have? Absolutely zero.

  2. Just Watchin says:

    It is the modus operandi of the legal profession to write laws and interpret them in their ‘judgments’ in language that requires more of their fraternity’s services to explain them to the non-legal citizens from whom they draw their wealth. It’s always been that way and it’s only getting worse.

  3. Anonymous says:

    This is the same as saying, we have no clue what we are doing, so you sort it out for yourselves and let us know what you find out. We are only here to supervise whatever that means. Total confusion.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So we are paying $1million for what????

  5. Anonymous says:

    I hope they didn’t say that….and after the 100K legal bill for failing who will ever challenge anybody?, Well, I must say this if world trends continue…like is Austria, like in the USA and elsewhere the political establishment is going to fall and fall hard…people have listen to wise words for years and they can’t drink tears or eat promises…and so it comes to this..the end! The rich will have to start paying their fair share and the money will have to spread around.

    Its only so long you can continue to “cut cut” at the middle class and say it can be sustained. Your right, it cannot be sustained., 1 your job and 2 your money bag friends.


  6. Anonymous says:

    Is it not the job of these civil servants to figure it out?

  7. Anonymous says:

    The only reason that there are “qualifications” for office is that somewhere in the past someone must have thought it was a good idea to come up with something that could get any potential opponent disqualified.

    As far as I am concerned, anyone should be allowed to hold office. Let the people off cruise ships on island for a day or Northward inmates run for office. Once we maintain “qualifications” for who can vote then let them all run. Take their $1000 deposit and whomever gets the most votes is the duly elected candidate, and quite obviously must have been the person who appealed to the most voters.

    In a democracy people should get the representation that they deserve, and the one with the most votes is the person that they deserve even if that person is a totally useless piece of S#h?y!t&e

    • Oxan says:

      So, basically a crack head could run for office in your opinion?

      You’re slightly unstable….but welcome to Cayman where we have no mental health facility; you should fit in quite well.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Really now?? So where’s the AG Sam Bulgin? He’s not available nor giving advice?? And isn’t the new Courts Administrator a qualified attorney? And this the best we get for the salary they all collect? Hmmmm…..

    • Anonymous says:

      Who is writing these uninterpretable laws in the first place?

    • Anonymous says:

      I cannot believe that they are essentially saying that there is no sure criteria. Certainty in the law is a fundamental factor in the rule of law. Perhaps they are being circumspect and do not want to say that the decision in the court case is a prime example of the judge fitting the law to match the less controversial result. That decision was hogwash.

  9. Anonymous says:

    And this is what supervision of Elections has come to?

    God help us!

    • Anonymous says:

      God helps those who helps themselves! Nothing for free or w/o work…….ie faith, hope and getting up and standing up! Call the church pastors/priests and ask how they’re gonna get voters out? The answer will shock you! The only ones to help us is US….Stand against wrong, speak with your God-given voice and “be the change you wish to see”.Dig deep and surprise yourself…..You’d be pleasantly surprised once you stand against wrong how you can’t be quiet anytime after…..SO PLZ STAND and SPEAK!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    In other words we do not understand the law or our role, and so rather than making any decisions, we will let you do whatever you want.

    Sound familiar?

  11. Anonymous says:

    How can the potential candidate know if they are qualified to run if “questions remain about qualifications”? What is so difficult about making clear what the qualifications are. Everything in Cayman has to be more complex and more aggravating for the public than anywhere else in the world.

    • Anonymous says:

      cause it needs to be subject to easy change and variable interpretation depending on how it suits any given day and situation!

  12. Kenny says:

    I am so proud of these outstanding civil servants.

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