Cayman advised to review voter restrictions

| 14/07/2017 | 60 Comments

(CNS): Election observers who came to watch the May 2017 election have advised government to make changes to restrictions on voters and widen the franchise to include long-term residents. In their final report on the mission, the Commonwealth observers made a number of recommendations about improving the secrecy of the ballot in some areas, better compliance with human rights and international standards, as well as a review of equity of representation. (See poll below.)

Nevertheless, the election got an overall thumbs up from the observers. They commended the Elections Office on how well the team managed the elections in general and the fact that they managed a complete overhaul of the electoral system in a matter of months rather than the benchmark of at least one year. 

But while the elections were found to be free and fair, the observers noted a number of issues relating to the law and the Constitution that don’t meet international norms or accepted human rights regarding democratic principles.

One point the observers raised that is bound to cause controversy is the fact that eligibility criteria for both voters and candidates is linked to Caymanian status. Although this is a constitutional issue, the mission looked at the provisions that restrict both voters and potential candidates and questioned how reasonable some of them are.

The observers received a number of complaints about long-term residents being unable to vote, and determined that, in light of the mobility of the population and the contribution made by the diverse expatriate community, consideration should be given to including residents in the franchise.

They also questioned the duration of residence requirements for both voters and candidates, and advised a change in the time span people must be in Cayman before elections. “The requirement that voters must be resident for at least two of the four years immediately preceding registration should be reviewed, as it appears excessive,” the observers stated.

The mission found that higher levels of voter registration could be achieved by replacing the existing active system, which requires positive steps to be taken by eligible voters to be included in the register, to a passive system linked to a broader review of the processes of civic registration.

They also raised concerns that the publication of personal data of voters as part of the process of revision and dissemination of the voter register may encroach upon the individual right to privacy, and said voters should not be required to state their occupation when presenting themselves to vote.

Another issue is that some of the restrictions of prisoners voting is counter to international standards, as is the ability of the Elections Office to block people with serious mental health problems from voting. The observers also queried the blanket lifetime ban on individuals running for office if they have been convicted of dishonesty offences or have received a jail sentence of twelve months or more whatever the crime.

The mission said that there were some question marks about the actual secrecy of the ballot because registration numbers were on both the ballots and the counter foils, and because the very small number of postal ballots in some constituencies made it easy to work out how they voted. They further recommended that where people need assistance with voting, this should take place in a polling booth, as observers had seen officials help disabled people choose a candidate at a table in front of other voters.

Another important recommendation that has already been raised in Cayman on a number of occasions is the concept of equal suffrage. While all Cayman voters now have one vote, the ratio of residents to their representative ranges widely in the eastern constituencies on Grand Cayman.

The issue of the Sister Islands getting two representatives regardless of the population has been enshrined in the Constitution but there is nothing in the constitution that creates an exception for any constituency on Grand Cayman.

Because the emphasis is on traditional and historic boundaries, the average of around 1,100 voters for the constituencies of West Bay and George Town are not being met in the east.

“Constituency boundaries should be reviewed with the aim of achieving greater equality between the numbers of electors within electoral districts. Deviations from the norm should ideally not be more than 10 to 15 per cent,” the mission stated.

But North Side, which has 716 registered voters, and East End, which has 692, both border Bodden Town East, which has just one representative for 1,513 voters, falling far short of equality of suffrage.

See observer mission’s full report in the CNS Library

CNS poll: The question of tradition versus equal suffrage

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Category: 2017 General Elections, Elections, Opinion Poll, Politics

Comments (60)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I know several status holders who chose not to register to vote owing to concerns about being picked for jury service, not necessarily because of an absence of a sense of civic duty, but because of security concerns which are amplified by the disclosure of home addresses of registered voters online. I also know a number of status holders who still intend to go back to their country of origin upon retirement.

    I suspect that if we were to open up the right to vote to PR holders, only those with a “real” longer-term perspective on living in Cayman – viewing the PR grant as a path to status and effectively adopting Cayman as their home, as I have done – would choose to register to vote anyway, assuming that registering to vote would still add the individual to the jury pool automatically.

  2. anonymous says:

    For sanity’s sake, would any further advocates of allowing non-Caymanians to vote kindly study the population composition figures of Cayman and (for example) New Zealand before posting? This ‘ain’t Ellis Island and Caymanians are not living in wigwams and dancing around totem poles!

    • Anonymous says:

      So what about those countries (many in the Caribbean) that allow commonwealth nationals to vote? What offensive, racist and stupid remarks are you going to make about them?

  3. Anonymous says:

    I reckon they just threw that in to trigger the xenophobes. And it worked. Don’t worry Caymaniacs, expats will never be given the vote because then Mac et al couldn’t buy their way into power with cushy Barkers “patrol” jobs, NBF donations, booking up the Brac hotels on their government credit cards and giving Caymanians free petrol and medical care etc etc etc. When every Caymanian family has at least one member bringing home easy government money and treats votes are easy to buy. If the vote was given to those members of Caymanian society who aren’t eligible for perks they might actually vote based on leadership and then where would the country be?

    • Anonymous says:

      4.04am That mean, snobbish, disdainful looking down at Caymanians attitude, is exactly the reason Caymanians do not want people like you having a vote.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I think a U.K expat should be allowed to vote after 5 years of living here. Permanent residents should certainly be included.

    • anonymous says:

      Please refer to 8.11 am above, make yourself a strong cup of tea, and do some deep thinking.

  5. P says:

    At the very least, spouses of Caymanians should be allowed to vote

  6. Anonymous says:

    caymanians deserve what they get……only this backward system could return the likes of miller, whogene, mclean, eden..etc…..on a continual basis…

  7. Anonymous says:

    we live in banana republic where the hardest working, most educated people including 50% of the population cannot vote…..

  8. Anonymous says:

    Ahh the great problems of democracy. It’s sad when a nation can’t get their shit together because of greed.

  9. Anonymous says:

    That should never happen. Isn’t that why Brexit and trump happened because the immigrants wanted to run the country?

    • Anonymous says:

      No. Brexit and Trump happened because poorly (or wrongly) informed citizens were led to believe that immigrants were responsible for their woes, when in actuality it’s a their rufusal to adjust to a rapidly changing world to blame. It’s a short term scam that got some clever (not wise) people elected. It will wash out soon enough.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Ask the new Governor how he became a British citizen and a senior member of the FOC office diplomatic staff despite being an immigrant from Bangladesh.
    This is a modern world people, and just like your forefathers, immigrants will come, work and gain citizenship.
    After witnessing this last election debacle, I think it’s time that new blood was allowed to vote, at least the drug dealers would be less likely to gain candidate or MLA status.

    • Anonymous says:

      @6.42pm FYI There was a huge increase in new voters in the election less than two months ago, in case you didn’t notice.And talk about debacles look at the last general election in the USA in November 2016 and how much that has set the US back. Then look at the referendum in the UK and how much that has set the UK back.Funny thing is the same people who created that mess in those two countries , now want the chance to control the vote here, and somehow that is supposed to bring us comfort.Really.

    • anonymous says:

      Friend, reflect on the ratio of Caymanians to non Caymanians before you go to your bed tonight. Your last paragraph speaks volumes about your mental capacity. Please consult someone you have been told has some common sense : a family member, a friend, your pastor etc before posting anything else. Thank you.

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        Which bit of his last comment do you think shows mental incapacity, because last time I looked a convicted drug dealer did get elected. Along with a domestic abuser. That’s a matter pf fact, not opinion.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Interestingly the 2008 Auld Commission of Enquiry into Government failure in the Turks & Caicos Islands explicitly made the connection between government corruption and restrictions on the right to vote. From the Commission Report:

    “Among the contributors to this moral, governmental and financial decline have been: 1) the potential and encouragement in the system of governance for abuse of public office, concealment of conflicts of interest at all levels of public life, and consequent venality; 2) the power of politics in the mix of public decision‐making and commercial activity, and willingness of overseas developers and other investors to exploit that power for their own purposes; 3) vulnerability of the majority of the Territory’s long‐term residents, owing to the precariousness of their permission to live and work here, and to whom Belongership and, with it, the right to vote are denied; and 4) lack of effective constitutional checks and balances in the system of governance to protect the public
    purse, the inefficient from scrutiny, the dishonest from discovery and the vulnerable from abuse.”

    It all sounds very, very familiar, but note point 3.

    • anonymous says:

      Well, firstly let’s be intelligent enough to not take every opinion from any report, regardless of its origin as the gospel truth. That’s just plain silly. “Point” three appears to correlate the inability of a majority of the long term residents to vote to the existence of official corruption, which in the case of T&C may or may not have been the case for reasons peculiar to the T&C, but to apply that to every country in the world is a bit of a simplistic stretch, surely?

      • Anonymous says:

        I don’t think he/she is suggesting the observations in the report apply to every country, that would clearly be nonsense. What is being suggested is that the points in that paragraph sounded very familiar in relation to Cayman. I agree – if you change the word “Belongership” to “Caymanian Status”, it reads like a fairly accurate description of what has happened in Cayman in the last 2 decades or so.

      • Fred the Piemaker says:

        Agreed. Applying to every country in the world is simplistic. Applying it to countries where less than 500 votes can secure you a seat in parliament and very fat salary does, however, work. Those circumstances are not unique to the Turks.

  12. Anonymous says:

    Ask the observers how long will someone have to reside in their country on a work permit, before they can Vote to choose their representatives for Parliament. Let us hear from each one.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Would be good if there can be an independent review of the overseas election observers report. For example, some of their statements about international obligations could be more opinion than fact. And yes, their report goes far beyond the usual remit of election observers.

    • anonymous says:

      Thank you for your comment. It never fails to dismay me how readily people are to accept “official” reports without question!

  14. Anonymous says:

    In the last country I lived in I could vote in municipal elections after 5 years. Given that Cayman has only 7% of the voters in total compared to that town I would have thought it would be reasonable to allow people with PR to vote, as they will have shown financial and other commitments that were not necessary for me in my previous town. One of my local foreign friends there was also elected to the city council. Caymanians may wish to think about getting fresh blood and ideas into what is a stale election market. It may help to break some of the monopolies and other corruption issues too…

    • Anonymous says:

      Some countries, such as New Zealand, do allow resident non-citizens to vote in national elections. Others (incuding the UK and many in the Caribbean) allow Commonwealth Nation citizens to vote – this should be the minimum for Cayman, extend the vote to Commonwealth Nationals resident in Cayman for say 2 years or longer.

    • Anonymous says:

      Or 9:38 a.m., they might ADD to the current monopolies and/or corruption issues! Once some get a taste of power, they will do all that they can to hold on to it!

    • Anonymous says:

      9.38am Caymanians are already marginalised in these islands and as far as corruption are you talking about the ‘corrupt’ practice of a large number of expat lawyers who have in effect robbed us of our birthright by practicing Cayman Law abroad without having permission to do so.That is the type of corruption that Caymanians are worried about.

  15. Anonymous says:

    I am an expatriate. I have been living here for about 15 years on and off. I don’t believe that I have the right to vote in an election conducted in a country of which I am not a citizen, no matter how long I have lived here. Voting is a privilege that should be the right of Caymanians and Caymanians only in the same way that only American, Canadian and British citizens can vote in their own countries. I hope that recommendation falls by the way side quickly.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thank you for some good expatriate common sense and honesty! Much appreciated.

    • Anonymous says:

      Good for you, but that’s not my opinion or that of many other expats. The UN, EU and the UK all say that 5 years is the norm for a citizenship application, if you have a clean record and contribute to the society positively, employment etc…
      And your assertion isn’t true in any case because Irish citizens can vote in the UK if they are resident, (Ireland Act).
      Why shouldn’t expats who have positively contributed, have clean records, pay all of their financial dues and who make a commitment to the Cayman Islands be given the chance of citizenship and eventually the vote?
      I understand that immigration can easily get out of control, I come from England after all, that was the main reason many people voted for Brexit. But, these islands, like the UK, need a low skill workforce to maintain their main industries of tourism and service, the economy will collapse without them.

      The Caymanian people and their government need to come up with a solution to this lack of manpower and human rights before somebody out there imposes their own solution.
      Simply saying that you can’t isn’t going to be enough, there needs to be a workable solution to settle the immigration, PR and Status issue once and for all, but all the time CIG keep asking for public input into issues of vital national interest, nothing will get done.
      Simply living somewhere doesn’t qualify you for anything, positive contribution does, alongside a commitment to the Cayman Islands.
      Not everyone wants to become a citizen, many are here to work and return home for a veriety of different reasons, most just want to contribute to the much needed workforce and leave.

      • Anonymous says:

        You said it exactly right! Most want to work and go home. Based on that statement alone is reason enough why expats should not be allowed to vote. They have no long term commitment to the island nor care. They care about the short term goals and opportunities.

        Cayman will be a wasteland after expats choose how to run the island. Caymanians now are already going the way of the native Americans.

        Even long term residents of Cayman that were originally expats. Most are of the opinion that they are only in Cayman to work and once they have made enough money that they can retire, they will leave this “wretched place”. It is not a minority that think poorly of Cayman and the Cayman people.

        Expats should not have a right to vote under any circumstances.

      • Anonymous says:

        Just make the roll over policy at 5/6 years and the PR process more difficult, cumbersome, expensive and excessively complicated.

    • Anonymous says:

      you are not an expat…

    • Anonymous says:

      That comment is dunce. The fact that I applied for and received Caymanian Status means that I made a conscious decision to choose to become Caymanian. The country I came from has a very good economic and stable base so I did not run away from economic or political hardship but I came here because relatives of mine invited me as they were recruited here and I met my husband who is Caymanian so here I am and I love it. I have children here who are Caymanian so as this is now my home for over 35 years, I would like to have a voice as to the future of my children, grandchildren and me when I am amongst the elder Caymanians. I would never have asked to be a Citizen if I did not have a love for, concern for and genuine desire for what is best for these Islands. I came here when Cayman was not as developed as it is now. When we all slept with our doors and windows unlocked; neighbours knew each other and when there was a clear and beautiful Cayman culture. So yes, i am an adopted expat Caymanian but I want to preserve some of what is traditionally Caymanian so would be better able to do that by voting for those who promise to and are capable of preserving our Caymanian-ness. Expats with status who do not have that same love for and desire to engage in things Caymanian should not apply and should stay silent.

    • Anonymous says:

      But actually, in the UK, you don’t have to be British to vote. Commonwealth citizens (Canada, Australia, etc.) can vote.

  16. Deuteronomy 23:1 says:

    “If a man’s testicles are crushed or his penis is cut off, he may not be admitted to the assembly of the LORD.

  17. Forever Resident says:

    Great news! Now let’s see some action.

    PS Radio hosts and callers in, the word Permanent means infinite/lasting/enduring and in this case “Forever Resident”

    To hear you waffling on about blocking permanent residents from voting because they have no ties to the island Makes you sound foolish. I have met some permanent residents that know more and contribute more to these islands than the locals in my neighbourhood.

    There are benefits to having More people on voter role. 1 benefit is more people will be available for jury duty that aren’t related to or know the criminal.

    It should also be mandatory that if you are caymanian (born or by paper) you are automatically in the jury duty pool. Too many people benefitting from the caymanianship but not contributing to society as a whole.

    • anonymous says:

      Speaking of sounding foolish, you appear to be basing your stance on A. your knowledge of some permanent residents “that know more and contribute more to these islands than the locals in my neighbourhood” and B. the need to increase the jury duty pool with persons not related to criminals. Friend, this is not exactly a compelling argument by any stretch of the imagination, is it?

  18. Anonymous says:

    Permanent Residents having the right to vote in Cayman? Absolutely not. It makes no difference the amount of human capital or monetary investment PRs contribute to Cayman, nor how many buildings they build – this is an absolute “no,” and requesting to do so is akin to bribery. Caymanians go to other countries and invest all the time, spending thousands of dollars at a time, and may even live there for a while, e.g., as students, vacationers, investors, or even as a form of PR holder in that country, but do you see us requesting the right to vote, or let alone being granted the right to do so in those countries? Absolutely not. This is far from a Human Rights issue. Caymanians are encouraged to be “CaymanKind” not “CaymanPushover.”

    On the other hand, if there needs to be a debate, it should be on behalf of Caymanians to vote regardless of their time spent living abroad. Surely Cayman’s Prisoners should not have more rights to vote than a law-abiding Caymanian. In fact, while I am a huge Human Rights advocate in many areas, I believe that once a person has been locked up for a criminal offense, they should have no right to vote – at all. Isn’t that the point of being imprisoned – to lose the majority of freedoms and privileges that law-abiding persons have? I think Cayman is actually very lenient in this area.

    Lastly, I disagree with the Elections Observers that the number of voters within a constituency boundary matters. First of all, if you look at other countries, no where are their districts divided in such a manner that their representatives all have the equal amount of persons to represent. Furthermore, the number of voters living within a constituency is always going to a changing thing, this is never a static number. Will Cayman be required to re-designate boundaries every four years in order to ensure each constituency has the equal number of voters in each one?

    Finally, on a more positive note, I would like to thank the Elections Observers for ensuring that the elections process was conducted in a reputable and transparent manner, which most certainly added to Cayman’s free and fair elections, particularly during our new One Person One Vote implementation. I think having an “extra set of eyes” is always a good thing and serves to heighten confidence by our constituencies in the electoral process. Thank you again.

    Last but certainly by no means least, while I am obviously not privy to every detail that took place from the Elections Office side of things, I can certainly agree that that they did a fantastic job, not just on Election Day, but in the months leading up to the elections, by way of educating the public on the new process as well as keeping everyone informed every step of the way. Major kudos to the Elections Office!

    • Anonymous says:

      The fact that it appears it is easy enough to work out how an individual voted by comparing their numbered voting slip to their voters registration should be ringing a lot of alarm bells, but clearly you think they do just a wonderful job – so that’s all right then. For me I’d be horrified. And why don’t more Caymanians give their name on their posts if they voice popular views here like “no votes for non-Caymanians”. They don’t fear retribution do they?

      • Anonymous says:

        I actually agree with you on that point. If voters fear being identified then that is something that should be corrected. But I believe the serial match number is there for another reason, to avoid other forms of corruption, such as changes to a voter’s ballot that cannot be traced later on and identified if necessary, for example in the event there is a dispute by a voter, etc. However, I can still agree with the Election Observers’ expressed overall view, which was that the Elections Office did a wonderful job on a whole, especially given the short six months with which they had to work prior to the Election Day itself.

        However, it does seem like you’re eager to beat-down a Caymanian today! 🙂
        Go on then.

  19. Anonymous says:

    In a recent talk today radio show, Gilbert McLean went on a rant about why North Side and East End should be left as they are “because from the beginning of Cayman, that is how it has been and no one in these districts is complaining about the voting arrangements”. Completely missing the point that it is not North Side and East End people that should feel that they are being unfairly treated, it is all the other larger constituencies. McLean is supposed to be a big intellect but he just could not grasp it. It was embarrassing. Then he was joined by Mary Lawrence and Kenneth Bryan who did not think any changes should be made to those who are entitled to vote. Under Gilbert this program, like Orrett Connor’s has become very anti government, anti U.K., anti expat in tone and since it is Radio Cayman, all paid for by us taxpayers, including those people who have no vote. Is Franz listening!?

    • Anonymous says:

      cayman radio talk shows are an insult to common sense..

    • Anonymous says:

      But it was no problem when George Town voters could each vote for 4, 5 or 6 candidates in the last several elections? I am more concerned about voting for competent candidates rather than how many Caymanians are represented by each MLA.

    • anonymous says:

      Probably, but he’s got enough common sense to realize comments like yours are unintelligible.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Theirs is but one opinion. There are no definitive “international standards” or “international norms” on the points they are making, all of which originate in the EU bureaucracy. Brussels may think it sets the international norm, but many disagree.

  21. Anonymous says:

    There has been a lot of gibberish talked on the radio in the past couple of days regarding this report, much of it around long term residents being afforded the vote. CNS could usefully do an article on those countries where resident non-citizens are allowed to vote (e.g New Zealand – all non-citizen residents, many Caribbean countries – with regard to Commonwealth citizens), as there are some outright untruths being spouted by the usual suspects.

    • anonymous says:

      Are you thick or just bent on causing trouble? To compare Cayman with places like NZ is insane due to (for most thinking people) the obvious difference in population composition. Like NZ has a population ratio of 24,000 and a none citizen population of over 40,000?? Get real, sportsfan, and what the heck are you inferring about “the usual suspects”? Talk sense, man.

      • Anonymous says:

        What is undeniable, despite your gratuitously offensive rant which speaks volumes about your intellect and education, is that when people on radio shows (“the usual suspects”) say there is no country in the world that allows non-citizens to vote, they are downright ignorant or outright lying. The person you replied to is quite correct – NZ is one of a number of countries that do so.

        The poster’s point about Commonwealth citizens is also correct. There are a number of countries in which Commonwealth Nationals are allowed to vote, including Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and indeed the United Kingdom.

        The remainder of your post is irrelevant.

        • WaYaSay says:

          My friend, it appears you have a long list of Countries that you can move to if your desire is to vote in the country you reside in as a visitor.
          Have you thought of relocating? Problem solved

  22. Anonymous says:

    The loudest mouth got the least responsibility in terms of the voters and he does a piss poor job at that.

    • Anonymous says:

      4.20pm And that is your contribution to the Cayman Is .Wow and you are so proud of that.

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