Caymanian pursues HR complaint over vote denial

| 26/05/2017 | 57 Comments

(CNS): A human rights complaint has been made alleging that almost 500 Caymanians were denied the right to vote because of the misinterpretation of the Elections Law regarding residency requirements. The Caymanian complainant has also asked the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association elections observers to consider the denial as part of their review of Cayman’s first ever election under the system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies. There are a number of issues, but the complaint centres around a clash with the Bill of Rights as well as a misunderstanding of the law that has led to a significant denial of the democratic right to vote.

The complainant believes that the supervisor of elections has wrongly removed at least 492 voters who were not resident prior to the registration for the General Election, which took place Wednesday, while many more non-residents were retained on the electoral roll it what they say appears to be arbitrary misinterpretation of the law. The Caymanian’s complainant has also raised concerns about publishing the addresses of everyone who is registered to vote as it puts at risk women and other victims of domestic abuse who are hiding from violent partners.

A report on the 2013 election, based on the previous CPA observer mission, included recommendations about changing the residency requirement in the Elections Law which calls for otherwise eligible voters to have lived in Cayman for a certain amount of time during the two years before they register.

They found that it was too restricting and compares badly to other democracies, such as the UK, where their nationals can be continuously absent from the country for as much as fifteen years and still cast a postal vote. The complainant believes that first and foremost, the supervisor has misinterpreted the law and has applied it arbitrarily. The complaint claims that registering on the voters list is a “permanent registration”, a once-in-a-lifetime event that is updates when needed, and that people are not required to constantly re-register.

The complainant argues that the misinterpretation serves to undermine a number of freedoms, not least being the right to come and go from your own country as you see fit, be it to study, work or travel. Given that the Constitution sets out how a voter can be disqualified, and residency is not a reason, the complainant believes the Elections Office cannot remove a Caymanian from the electoral list because they are living overseas. There is no term limit in the Constitution regarding the length of time that a Caymanian can be overseas and still remain an eligible voter.

In correspondence with the election mission, seen by CNS, the complainant said, “A civil servant does not have the unilateral right to make a new departmental policy that conflicts with the Constitution, especially one that relies on secondary legislation like the Elections Law (2013), as well as a policy that disenfranchises potentially thousands of Caymanians living overseas.”

The complainant has said that the removal of voters who are overseas is tantamount to attempting to stop Caymanians from spending periods of time overseas.

“Government should not put a tether on Caymanians, attempting to not let them travel too far for too long,” they wrote, arguing that the situation is compounded by the increasing marginalisation of local people from the local workforce.

The current observer mission confirmed on Monday that they will be making inquiries with officials about the residency issue in the Elections Law and its interpretation. The group is due to meet with the press today, Friday, where the issue will be raised.

The Human Rights Commission has also raised the issue that the residency requirement for voters may be in breach of the Bill of Rights. However, Wesley Howell, the supervisor of elections, has previously said the idea that the registration of a voter is permanent is wrong and that the courts have in one case already found against the complainant.

“The registration date is not a single point in time,” Howell has stated. “The registration date happens four times a year as per the Elections Law.”

Whether the law has been properly interpreted or not remains in question but it does appear that the limits on Caymanians living overseas clashes with some basic rights set out in the Constitution and that compared to other jurisdiction it seems to be overly restrictive. As the election observers are expected to recommend reforming this part of the law again, it will be a matter of whether or not, when Cayman finally gets a new government, the Cabinet will be inclined to act.

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Category: 2017 General Elections, Elections, Politics

Comments (57)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I wasn’t happy getting bombarded with emails from prospective politicians. Nor was I happy that some delivered letters addressed to me with my name on my door step. It was a complete violation of my privacy. I also want to know how they are going to keep that information private once they have it. Knowing the name attached to a home is a very dangerous thing. I gave my information to the Elections Office not to every Tom, Dick and Harritta. It was a complete violation of my rights for privacy.

    Ostracizing Caymanians in our own country is the lowest, regardless if they live here or not, they still should have a right. Being away from your country doesn’t change your where you are from. Changes need to happen sooner than later.

  2. Do-over election will be demanded as a course of natural justice says:

    The fact that the attorney’s at the Human Rights Commission could find NO OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD to punish its citizens like the Cayman Islands regarding the length of residency to register to vote is proof enough.

    Even the Electoral Observers noted this in Friday’s press conference.

    Therefore, when you have a senior government official making policy decisions that violate the law to deny hundreds of otherwise eligible voters from casting their vote, then a do-over election is required.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Why has the data protection law not yet been gazetted -even though it was passed by the LA in Mrach 2017? Was it’s implementation delayed on purpose?

    • Anonymous says:

      Doh, because Mrach 2017 is Jabba the Hut language which roughly translated means March 2021, which is funnily enough just before the next election

  4. Anonymous says:

    You 500. If you want to vote come home. How dare you seek to decide who is elected to office when you are not here to suffer the consequence when you get it wrong.

    We not following no UK. Remember why they left the EU.

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  5. Anonymous says:

    I agree that a Voter’s address should be kept private, since in my experience this has led to issues.

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    • Anonymous says:

      1:51pm I know of a person who has not been living in an district for over 18 years and has been voting every 4 years in the district that she no longer lives in. There are tricks as usual and always will be. How many more are living elsewhere and continue to do so?

      • Anonymous says:

        4.34 Did you inform the elections office? They do go house to house but perhaps they get incorrect info – ‘yes she still lives here but she’s not here right now’. They sure won’t find her at the address where she doesn’t want to be found.

        • Anonymous says:

          We had supervisors from the wrong district arrive at our door. Twice. Never anyone with the correct list. 404

      • Anonymous says:

        i know of 2 people that have never lived in the cayman is. and votes, because they have status and are caymanian by their parents

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        • Anonymous says:

          So, they are Caymanian… they should be allowed to vote. Everyone with the passport should vote regardless of where they currently live in the world. I do not live in my country but I still vote in the elections.

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      • Anonymous says:

        I’m sure this happens, but frankly, really don’t care, as long as they only vote once.

  6. AZOTH says:

    If we all have to vote to decide what is right then it is sad to say we are all hopeless.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    We need to amend the Constitution to allow ALL Caymanian Citizens of excellent character the opportunity to serve the territory, if they wish to do so. They would need to earn their votes like anyone else. The reality, as we’ve seen, is that we have far too few qualifying “Born Caymanians” with the will, character, intellect, stamina, and chin to responsibly take us where we need to go. We need to be honest about that, and make some small changes to allow better options the chance to serve.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Oh no the hell we won’t, what Cayman needs to do is hold our political directorate to task and ensure that they follow through with their promises. Why is it that people want to come into this beautiful country and amend things to their liking? Cmon man.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Excellent idea. However the excellent character part could be a challenge.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t worry. Eventually they will have to! All the teens and young Caymanians that have petty police records for smoking marijuana will not be able to run in the future. With 20k registered voters, I assume the number of people that can run for office is way less. Check that number again next election and you will see the trend. Pretty soon the UK will have direct rule over us or we will need to go independent.

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      • Anonymous says:

        2:24pm, the Status Grants is what has us where we are. My district is Little Kingston. I am sure we can do better than that. Soon there will be no more of us and all of them.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Please get over the Status Grants. That was 14 years ago, long before any roll-over, and can’t (and won’t) be undone now. Most of the recipients were worthy and had been living in Cayman for decades – some over 30 years. It’s true there were a minority that were suspect, and it was frustrating, but you need to get over it for your own mental health. The reality is that there have been >10,000 more Caymanians added after that date, not from Status Grants, but via rigorous several step re-qualification process lasting over 15+ yrs. There are now more Caymanians than ever, not less. Since 2003, far too many have chosen to act as a subversive force against civil rights rather than accepting fellow qualifying citizens. It is a socially corrosive way to be and was institutionalized by last regime with untold financial consequence for us all in the months ahead.

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    • Anonymous says:

      12.07pm Here we go with the bigotry again. Yet some of you have the nerve to call Caymanians bigoted and xenophobic.What is xenophobic,arrogant, bigoted,and disrespectful is traveling to a foreign land and telling the locals that they are second class and unfit to lead and therefore should select you as a better option. Hell no.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The irony of reaffirming tiers of citizenship is obviously lost on you and others.

        Caymanians are not permit holders or random visitors. Maybe if they were born elsewhere, we are unable to differentiate, and what does that make us? We might not like it, but this is their home and they’ve earned their place here – albeit with the possible exception of a couple hundred 2003 Status Grant recipients, there are thousands of contributors that qualified the hard way. Operative word being “contributors”. They have much to offer, if we could only see past their birth passport.

      • Anonymous says:

        So, at what point does one actually become Caymanian or “local” in your opinion, or does it ever really happen? What is the threshold on being considered a fellow citizen with equal civil rights rather than a foreign person? Clearly, qualification doesn’t cease after being granted status by a subjective panel of scrutiny and deputy governor’s office after a decade and a half or more of continuous residency and disproportionate contributions. How many decades does it REALLY take to be embraced and accepted, or is there some arbitrary social criteria that select Birth-Caymanians know their neighbour’s personal business and be invited for supper? Genuinely interested in these non-xenophobic, all-welcoming thoughts you allude to.

  8. Anonymous says:

    You cannot vote in UK elections if you have been non resident for 15 years.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    What about the non Caymanians who may have been allowed to vote and may be wrongly registered? Does Caymanian in the elections law and constitution mean something different from Caymanian in the immigration law?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Like who exactly? Can you name one person on the Voter Register that shouldn’t be there? No, you can’t.

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      • Anonymous says:

        My father was, and he hadn’t lived here for over 10 years. He never had citizenship but British residents in the 80s or 90s (not sure when he was registered) were able to vote here. I asked for his removal after seeing his name on the register. He’s been dead for over 5 years.

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        • Anonymous says:

          My parents also got on the list without being Caymanian. That may have been historic, but no-one seems to have checked that they were now Caymanian after the constitution changed.

        • Anonymous says:

          So how did he collect his voter photo ID and vote if he was dead?

        • Anonymous says:

          Are you saying he was still on the current list of electors as of the election and that someone might have attempted to impersonate him at the polling booth? What’s the name?

      • Anonymous says:

        I could – but won’t, obviously – name a person who could vote but did not have Status or PR for a long period of time. That changed when said person finally got their PR/Status. And it was the case for many years. They laughed about it themselves and realized how ridiculous a situation it was.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agree, if true, that they should not have been on the list – but why didn’t you say anything? Also, PR and Status are not interchangeable milestones. PR application requires 8 yrs residency and qualification, Status requires PR, Naturalisation (another separate qualification process), and CI Status application and re-qualification after 15 yrs. Each of these applications can take over a year, and in recent times, over 3 years!

      • Anonymous says:

        The test that the elections office uses to determine whether someone is Caymanian or not appears different from the test required by the immigration law. The elections office guidance relies on place of birth without taking into account the domicile and residence of parents at the date of birth and for example, ignores the fact that persons who are Caymanian by entitlement lose their status on their 18th birthday and must apply for (and be granted continuation) if they are to continue to be Caymanian after age 18. It also wrongly treats persons who happen to be born abroad differently from persons who are born here. It is perfectly possible for a Caymanian to be born overseas and to be Caymanian as of Right (a born Caymanian), and to label one set as Caymanian and the other set as Status holders is legally wrong, insulting, and divisive.

        Against that background and given the thousands of persons who are registered, how sure are you that everyone on the list is in fact Caymanian? Are you prepared to bet our democracy on the margin of error in (say) Newlands Town East being no greater than 16 persons?

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      • Anonymous says:

        You are missing the point. The elections office does not use the definition of Caymanian found in the Immigration law. The Caymanian Bar Association has raised this issue as recent as January 2017 inopen court.

      • Anonymous says:

        Like anyone who became Caymanian by entitlement and did not apply for and obtain continuation at age 18. By way of example, hundreds of previously born children of cabinet status recipients (including children born in Cayman before their parent became Caymanian) appear to have become Caymanian in this way. In relation to at least some of them, they and their parents may not have understood and/or undertaken the required steps to become, and to continue to be, Caymanian. Sure, they may have Cayman passports, but if they did not apply for and obtain continuation they are highly likely not Caymanian. There may be a number of people in this position. Whether the elections office checked for continuation, I do not know. Can anyone confirm?

    • Anonymous says:

      How is that even possible? As the other poster wrote, either provide a example or stop spreading maul road nonsense.

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      • Anonymous says:

        The criteria the elections office uses to decide if someone is Caymanian appears potentially inconsistent with the criteria set out in the immigration law as to the criteria required to fall within the definition of who is a Caymanian. It is assumed the immigration law definition is the one to be followed. There does not appear to have been any (public) attempt to reconcile the differences – hence the issue.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Investigations are also needed into absentee voting. I know a student who is presently overseas and wished to vote but Elections Office announced the deadline one day before absentee voting closed!

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    • Anonymous says:

      Anonymous at 11:36 this is so not true! Go back to all the ads, go to the website. I was an absentee voter and I read the info eons ago. I also got information from the registering officer in my district. So stop spreading propaganda.

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  11. Election observer says:

    We are heading for another general election before the end of the year anyway; this is another good reason for it.

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  12. Unison says:

    They should also investigate giving out people’s phone numbers! Nobody should be calling my phone demanding I go vote for them. I didn’t give them my number! So … how did they get it???
    ?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your name would be on the voters list including your address. If your telephone number is listed in the local telephone directory or on Facebook or some other social media, agents for candidates would simply call you up trying to get you to vote for a particular candidate.

      The solution: Limit your personal information online these days to avoid this.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Not so. I am not the original poster but I had to chip in here. They need to stop Digicel and Lime giving out our numbers and info to third parties including the political parties. I am an expat who rolls over rather than risk the uncertainty of PR and for the last two elections I have been subjected to messages from the PPM and CDP political parties even though I am not registered to vote and never give my phone number to anyone.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Chamber of Commerce Business After Hours contact list was leaked/sold to PPM.

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      • REB says:

        The Chamber owns PPM and CDP.

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      • Anonymous says:

        BS. The persons canvasing asked persons for their phone number. Some gave and some declined. Voters choice. Besides the number of voters that would be on the list you mention would not be worth the effort.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Agreed I received 2 text messages and a telephone call with messages that said “I see you haven’t voted, important to vote for “********”

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      • Anonymous says:

        Are you serious? I though this wasn’t allowed. I thought no lobbying or campaigning was allowed after a certain time prior to election. You need to report those messages to the election office!!!!

        • Anonymous says:

          Every citizen should excercise their democratic right, other than that, they should not complain about the things that happen. Vote your conscience. Stop complaining, that’s what the majority do and have no solution in the end.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Phone book?

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  13. Anonymous says:

    I agree on removal of the addresses for the public. I think it is an invasion on our privacy in this day and age. There are too many people looking to use the internet maliciously to be publicly giving out a list of names and addresses.

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    • John Downer says:

      Even in the USA after a person passes away their funeral information like house address is not placed in the papers nor on line. The tacky real estate people and other leeches are right there to be a predator for what they can get from estates.
      Personal information on line now is so yesterday.
      Please call now and ask for the changes to be made for confidentiality sake.

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