Petition in the hands of elections boss

| 12/06/2019 | 69 Comments
Cayman News Service

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell is flanked by his deputies, Sheena Glasgow (right) and Suzanne Bothwell, and campaigner Katrina Jurn (far left) with the petition documents (click to enlarge)

(CNS): Campaigners behind the petition for a people-initiated referendum on the cruise berthing project in George Town delivered over 5,300 signatures (25%) of registered voters into the hands of Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell on Wednesday. In a historic moment, the original document was taken to the Elections Office and a notarised copy was also handed to the governor’s office director, Matthew Forbes.

As Katrina Jurn and Michelle Lockwood, two of the leading organisers and volunteers who steered the campaign to success, handed over the documents, Jurn said she was pleased and proud to present the signatures of the Caymanians who supported the petition for a referendum.

The official submission will now trigger what could be a lengthy verification process because the required number of electors’ signatures needed to trigger a people’s vote will all need to be verified.

“We will work expeditiously to make sure that the verification happens as quickly and as accurately as we can to ensure we play our part in the process,” said Howell. He said they would issue media statements shortly, after the wording of the verification document is settled.

Cayman News Service

Michelle Lockwood hands a notarised copy of the petition to Matthew Forbes (click to enlarge)

The Elections Office is expected to begin a door-to-door verification process in the coming weeks and around 100 new recruits will join the office to begin the process. The people on the petition will be visited and asked only to confirm their voter details and that they signed the petition, Howell said.

But in order to expedite the process, the Elections Office and campaigners are urging everyone who signed to call in to the office from tomorrow or visit the office next week to confirm their details and their signature. People planning to leave Cayman for the summer are urged to call or visit the office before they leave.

The Elections Office has confirmed that if they cannot find voters who have signed to officially verify their participation in the petition, their signatures will not count. The campaign has handed over more signatures than actually needed and is still collecting names. Those additional names will be submitted in the next few weeks.

The departure of many families for the summer has caused real concern for campaigners, who fear that genuine voters who support the referendum but do not confirm their details with the Elections Office before they leave will not be included, which could put the whole campaign at risk.

Cayman News Service

Campaigners and officials with the petition
(click to enlarge)

The Elections Office said it will be promoting the need for people to make contact, especially if they have moved from the address that they gave to the office when they registered to vote.

Howell will be supported by two deputy elections supervisors, Suzanne Bothwell and Sheena Glasgow.

Bothwell reminded voters that they should supply their correct address to the Elections Office in any event. While the referendum is a national poll, the need for addresses on the electoral roll to be accurate is important because where you actually live determines the constituency in which you vote.

Howell said that with no legislation governing or regulating the constitutional provision for a people’s referendum, the decision by the Elections Office to verify each and every signature by face-to-face contact with voters was based on legal advice. This, he said, could not be shared but it was the same process by which the electoral register was verified ahead of the 2017 election.

The campaigners also said that they had given a notarized copy of the petition to Forbes to give to the Governor in his role as chairman of the Cabinet ensuring that the activist meet all the requirements of the constitution regarding the referendum. With no legislation to guide this first ever people’s vote organizers are very keen to make sure there are no errors or loopholes in the process that could be used to derail it.

The government has made it very clear since the campaigners began the petition, it is not only committed to and continuing on the path towards signing a contract for the controversial cruise port project it is completely opposed to the democratic vote. The premier has said that the vote will derail the project and he has consistently claimed that his government has a mandate as most of the MLA’s on the unity benches were in support during the 2017 campaign.

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Category: Politics

Comments (69)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Make sure you VIDEORECORD the entire encounter when they come to your door or you go to the Elections office. Otherwise they would pull their dirty tricks.

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  2. Ron Ebanks says:

    I don’t trust this verification process one bit , and the people should protest and demand that it be done FAIRLY or else we will make sure the next election goes FAIRLY .

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  3. Anonymous says:

    Why can’t they just check the names against the voters register and then only visit the names that they cannot verify or question?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Because there is strong motive and emotion amongst many of the people driving the petition, including but not limited to political gain.

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  4. gee says:

    This bring up another problem why does Howell have two jobs does this mean he gets two pensions when he retires?

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    • Jotnar says:

      If he agrees the petition is valid he may get to find out about retirement sooner than he had anticipated.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Who verifies the hundreds of verifiers?

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Kirkbots back out again…

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  7. Anonymous says:

    caymanians…you vited for them???? you are part of the problem!!!!😕

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  8. Anonymous says:

    The difference between is, in a general election, voters have to physically go to the elections office to register. No one had to go to the elections office to sign the petition. Mr Howell said clearly, the referendum and petition does not legally exist until verified.

    To vote in the referendum, once/if triggered no one will have to go door to door, just as in an election. But if you want the referendum you have to follow the first law, which is verified (not self verified) voters must have signed.

    Stop pre-blaming the elections office for what seems like an inevitable fail. You took a month to hand it in. Several weeks of lost time to verify. If you don’t have valid voter signatures or fear that you don’t then give up the bluff.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    OK, so they are still using every dirty trick in the book to defeat the anti port faction. Interests within interests here…
    Legal time methinks- they are using different standards to vet a referendum than an election process-illegal- using public money to spread unproven myths -illegal- denying (as the Premier has) that the petition has any weight at all and he does not have to take note of it- illegal. Tactics that Trump employs daily, and if you really want to be seen to be at that level go ahead, it will make the court case so much more fun and easy to win.
    Incidentally, a referendum in the UK and other EU jurisdictions can be achieved by an online petition…
    The dishonesty here goes right the way to the top and the Governor needs to stamp on it, (which i doubt he will) or the courts should decide.

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  10. Ron Ebanks says:

    @ Ms Sarah
    Which way is the Election Office doing the verification process?
    Going door to door , Or the people have to go to the Election Office to verify their signature?

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  11. Anonymous says:

    This process is almost certainly unlawful. If they are going to spend possible millions to ask the individuals that signed whether they did and effectively, “are you sure that is you and you do not want to change your mind” then they should also canvas every voter who did not sign and say “are you sure you do not want to sign?”.

    The sensible approach would be for 100 randomly signers to be confirmed, and apply that percentage across the whole. It is unreasonable, irrational and probably unconstitutional to do what they propose without first testing a sample to see if the whole process is likely necessary.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    If you wish to make a change , you cant keep doing what has always been done before .

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  13. Ron Ebanks says:

    Do we all see how this door to door verification are going to be such a wast of time and money. How will the verifying group know when people are home ? Do these people work? So they are going to go to allot of houses and find that the person who they are looking for is not there and would have to come back another day, so this way the verification process could take till 2021 before it is completely done , or those that wasn’t found their signature could get mark NO I DIDN’T SIGN OR SOMETHING ELSE. .
    WHY aren’t the people asked to come to certain locations on certain days to have their signature verified publicly, that could take the voter 15 min to do and have it over in one week .

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    • Sarah says:

      “WHY aren’t the people asked to come to certain locations on certain days to have their signature verified publicly, that could take the voter 15 min to do and have it over in one week”

      People who signed the petition can visit the Elections Office for verification – office hours will also be extended in the evening to allow people to come after work.

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      • Anonymous says:

        And to finish the answer ‘but many won’t come in so the Civil Servants have to go verify them to prove the petition is valid and force the referendum’.

        • Ron Ebanks says:

          12:45pm so you are say that there would be people also going Door to Door . How are those on the road going to know that Jon Doe three hour ago went to the office and verified ? You see the waste time . Or is it some other reason for the door to door visit ?

          The CPR group didn’t go door to door to get the people to sign the petition I believe .

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  14. Wagamama says:

    This verification process is ridiculous and a clear attempt to delay or cancel the referendum. Insisting each name and signature on the list must be verified face-to-face by the Elections office is farcical. There are any number of ways this can be done – including having it audited. Auditors use clever sampling techniques and only verify a sample of data. If anything in the sample proves false, they widen the sample, and so on.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I believe it might also be illegal. They have never come by my house to verify my signature to vote in a general election. They will try anything to carry on their shenanigans.

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      • Anonymous says:

        No, but you do have to show up in person to vote and have legal ID

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        • Anonymous says:

          But you dint have to turn up in person and have ID to have your name counted as part of the total number of voters that will test whether 25% have signed. Put another way – the official voter list can be crammed full of people who have died or gone to prison since originally registered as voters prisoners and dead people – yet the real, live people who have 100% been verified by Howell will have their names stacked against that unproven list. Going to do a 100% vouch on the signers, vouch them all.

        • Anonymous says:

          Which I did when I signed the petition.

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        • Anonymous says:

          And you do at the referendum too. So your point is?

    • Anonymous says:

      If there is no provision in the constitution for a people’s initiated referendum does that mean that they were so smug they didn’t imagine in their wildest dream that it might come up one day? It also means that what they are doing has no legal basis. CPR can you not file an injunction with the courts to prevent them from doing this? This is just their last effort to intimidate the signers of the petition.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Think this through. You file the injunction to stop the verification that means the list remains unverified that means the actual referendum never occurs.

        • Anonymous says:

          No you file an injunction to stop it, and seek an order to first verify through a reasonable sample.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    So the fact that they have everyones signature stored electronically doesn’t help! Why don’t they compare the signatures and verify those that do not match well enough instead of every single person having to be physically indentified again. Truly backwards is this place…

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  16. Anonymous says:

    Can someone please post the number that I need to call to verify that I signed the petition?

    If a face to face verification is deemed necessary, will a phone call suffice?

    If the answer to the above question is NO, will the Elections Office set up a separate office where people can visit and verify face to face, instead of waiting around at home for them to show up?

    Thank you to anyone who can shed some light on my questions!

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  17. Anonymous says:

    All I want to know is where do I go to sign no to the cruise berthing facility along with vote of no confidence for Aldart and his cronies.

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  18. Anonymous says:

    Another PR stunt!

    But finally, thank you. Really.

    Now go away please and let the referendum process begin.

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  19. Anonymous says:

    When exactly does the elections office think they are going to find all of these people just sitting around at home? I highly doubt they are going to be driving around at night interrupting the small amount of rest people get before they are off to the next shift of 9-5 tedium
    So what the elections office gets to show up randomly at my address at 11am knock on the door once and say “oh well guess he’s not home and cant verify, onto the next one” and my signature won’t be counted?
    This process seems entirely designed to never allow the threshold to ever be verified thus never actually having a PIR

    Then again that seems perfectly in line with everything we know about this government

    This referendum is going to receive more scrutiny that the last 4 elections put together

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  20. Anonymous says:

    We will deal with this and then get our port built. Unity Team forever!

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  21. The Constitutional Critic says:

    I for one would love to know what precautions are going to be put in place to ensure that these 100 temporary staff will be honest and unbiased while carrying out their duties in regards to verification. These staff will likely be traveling unsupervised around the islands with lists of voters, home addresses and numbers and simply left to their own devices. What is stopping part time employees that are essentially volunteers from either side of the argument from applying in an attempt to sway the results of this verification. What is stopping PPM and CDP party operatives from doing their best to ensure that the status quo supported by their bosses is maintained just as they clearly desire. We have already seen during the public consultation period that Kirk Freeport organized a large group of persons affiliated directly or loosely with their business in an attempt to push the results into their favour all on the exact same day. (which the media conveniently rarely brings up when discussing this issue)

    See for yourself below:
    https://cnslibrary.com/wp-content/uploads/Cruise-port-facility-Response-to-Public-Comments-September-2015.pdf

    What is stopping pro or anti port supporters from trying to enter the elections office to verify these signatures where they will be unsupervised and where their reports will be uncontested and unverified by any further body or institution

    There is a reason why during general elections the votes are counted in public, and there are representatives from both sides present who get the opportunity not only to witness the count but to contest

    The idea that the elected government and the pro-port lobby are going to just sit back after spending tens of thousands of dollars in advertising is farcical, they are going to fight tooth and nail to prevent this referendum, they are going to contest any and every discrepancy on the petition, they are going to ensure that as many people are excluded from this process as possible.

    I am not mincing words on this issue, so let me be perfectly clear:

    —— I don’t trust the elected CIG and most civil servants people who can easily be, at every possible opportunity they have obfuscated, obstructed and ignored the public because they have made clear they support this project come hell or high water. The politicians in particular have a track record of making shortsighted and illogical decisions based entirely on ensuring the donor class will continue to top up their campaign funds and attend ridiculous hundred dollar plate events.

    The CIG also clearly does not take its obligations regarding Standards in Public Life seriously as they have shown clearly over the past 5 years

    ——— I don’t trust the random hiring of 100 persons by the elections office, there are too many loose ends and moving parts to keep track of, it only takes a handful of bad apples to derail this entire process.
    Past and present PPM/CDP party members should be barred from participating.
    Anyone remotely related to Government members, Ministers or anyone related to or descended from employees, stakeholders or management in Kirk Freeport and other waterfront merchants should be barred from participating ( in fact it would probably be safer to bar anyone with a last name anywhere near “Kirk…” anything)
    The same should go for anyone who participated in organizing or collecting signatures for the petition.

    —– Handing this process over to the Governor is not enough, while I appreciate his perspective as an unbiased outsider, Mr Roper is not autonomous, he reports upwards just like any other member of Government not at the top, we cannot count on one man to defend out democracy from these autocrats. I for one am just thankful that the FCO paid no mind to those lunatics who wanted to install Franz Manderson as permanent Governor, or else this process would already be over and done with, he has been willing to play along with Mckeeva and Alden for far to long to be trusted to be unbiased on an issue like this, He is long overdue for a replacement and in my mind should be term limited to 8 years just like the Premier

    —— The best case scenario for this verification process would be hiring a small and well vetted staff of Caymanians no more than 20-30 persons who would then be presented to the public for scrutiny just as the elections officials and observers in every constituency are publicized every election. The elections office staff should then be accompanied by election integrity officials from overseas who would be completely bias free, the farther away they originate from Cayman the better.
    Audio recordings and GPS data should be kept of every attempt to verify, including a clearly stated time, location and date. All of this should be overseen and monitored by the Auditor General and the office of the Ombudsman who could also be responsible for overseeing rotations between the pairs of persons traveling to verify daily, ensuring objectivity and the inability to form any arrangements or conspiracies. Progress reports should also be made weekly to the Public Accounts Committee which would need to schedule extra sessions.

    —— If these 100 part time employees originate from Cayman we are asking for trouble, again there are too many loose ends and moving parts, too many people are just looking to pad their bottom line at any means necessary, we all know what kind of palm greasing and politicking goes on in these islands during elections times, I would argue this referendum is has even higher stakes than any GE we have in decades.
    Entrusting this to JPs or other officials is also not a solution
    Even if the process of verification takes longer we cannot risk screwing this up or leaving ourselves room to be conned.
    This constitution was purposely drafted this way and purposely left ambiguous to make this process as difficult and time consuming as possible to discourage attempts from a government feigning regard for democracy
    The published rules around election integrity for staff at the elections office, especially regarding referendums and petition verification which is presently unprecedented on our islands do not go far enough

    Upon the conclusion of this verification process within a year any information not concerning private data of voters or staff should be opened up for public review, including a published report by the Auditor General along with the ability to FOI specifics on a case by case basis, discrepancies should then be referred to the Ombudsman for investigation.

    This is just the tip of the iceberg, these measure may be time consuming and extreme to some, but I value the idea of protecting and preserving democracy and public trust in our institutions and currently I have none, and I am not alone.

    If the MLAs and specifically the elected government want to play hard ball, we are going to have to bring them to heel.

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  22. Anonymous says:

    No, petition should be in the hands of the people. Stop bullying.

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  23. Anonymous says:

    Is it only me that notice their are only one happy face in the second picture.

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  24. Anonymous says:

    What about overseas students who signed? How are they verified? I thought we could absentee sign and put in an absentee ballot. Hey

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  25. Anonymous says:

    How do the design a process that has no referendum law or guidelines? This invites political interference from Cabinet and proxies of the ppm to try to harass and intimidate persons into changing their mind or withdrawing their signature from the petition. This is now very political.

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  26. Anonymous says:

    Door-to-door verification, are you kidding me? Not only does it sound absurd but also intimidating. Why are so much resources being spent by government trying to halt the democratic and constitutional process? Verification is surely possible via electronic means.

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    • Anonymous says:

      “Verification is surely possible via electronic means.” – No, its not.

      Or, to put it another way, “what electronic means?” (Remember, you’ve got to verify my grandma’s shaky signature.)

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  27. Anonymous says:

    The pressure and eyes of the country are now fixed on Mr. Howell the Elections office and his boss Governor Roper

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    • Anonymous says:

      Burn up all the records!

    • Anonymous says:

      Yeah – the Governor is his boss. Right! When it comes to his full time job as CO to the Cabinet who do you think signs his paycheck? Who decides his next promotion? Who decides whether he gets fired? Sure as hell ain’t the Governor.

  28. Anonymous says:

    Thank you CPR

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  29. Anonymous says:

    Over 5300? It was over 5500 a few hours earlier. Which is it going to be YoYo?

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    • Anonymous says:

      It will be about 12 once Howell and his crew have finished “verifying” the signatures.

      Incidentally, does Howell have to say which signatures were not verified? So you know, the people whose signatures are being torn up get a chance to ask how their signature was verified, or prove an error has been made?

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  30. Anonymous says:

    Thank you to the brave Caymanians of CPR who refuse to accept the poor decisions of a Govt committed to special interests and a handful of duty free merchants.

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  31. I ❤️ Kirkbots says:

    What will the Kirkbots complain about now?

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