Cayman needs constituency boundary review

| 28/06/2021 | 47 Comments
Cayman News Service
Election staff prepare the night before elections

(CNS): Among the many recommendations made by the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region (CPA BIMR), which conducted a ‘virtual’ mission to observe the Cayman Islands General Election 2021, the experts said the difference in voter numbers across Grand Cayman’s constituencies is too great and the boundaries should be reviewed.

The report, which was published on Friday, also calls for amendments to the law to address weaknesses with campaign financing, the complaints process, residency rules for voters and candidates, discrimination against those with mental health issues and prisoners serving twelve months or more, and to make the supervisor of elections a permanent job.

The Constitution calls for equality of registered voters in each constituency where possible, with the exception of the carve out for the Sister Islands, which gets two MPs regardless of the voter numbers.

Since the 2015 Elections Boundary Commission drew up the 19 single-member constituencies, the voting population of Bodden Town has grown significantly. The CPA mission found “significant differences” in the electoral districts that go well beyond the international recommended difference of around 10% “except in special circumstances (protection of a concentrated minority, sparsely populated administrative entity)”.

During a press conference, the mission singled out Bodden Town East, the largest constituency on Grand Cayman with 1,664 voters, compared to the constituency of East End, the smallest with just 769 voters, as an example of a significant imbalance which results in a vote in EE being more than twice as powerful as a vote in BTE. “It is arguable therefore that electoral boundaries have not been drawn in compliance with the Constitution and international standards,” the mission found.

With the delayed 2020 national census now due to take place this October, the mission recommends that after that population count is completed a new boundary commission should conduct a delimitation exercise and publish a report by 2023, ahead of the next general election. They recommend careful scrutiny to narrow the variation in voter numbers. “Deviations from the norm should ideally not be more than 10 per cent and in exceptional circumstances 15 per cent,” the report stated.

This will mean a number of significant changes to the existing seats, and while moving boundaries within West Bay and George Town may not have a major impact on the communities affected, addressing the large differences between the eastern districts could prove more challenging and controversial.

The previous representatives of East End and North Side, Arden McLean and Ezzard Miller, were steadfast in their opposition to combining their constituencies based on what they believed were the wishes of their communities. The two new MPs, Isaac Rankine and Jay Ebanks, have not yet expressed any opinions publicly about this issue but it is highly unlikely that either of them would be in favour of the elimination of their own constituency. One possible alternative is that the two constituencies grow geographically to encompass parts of BTE.

The CPA mission set out fifteen recommendations to improve elections, touching on most areas of the election process, from its management and a need for an independent election commission to the lack of transparency surrounding campaign finance.

Candidates are currently required to submit only limited details of their spending and the donations they received over a short period, and the report calls for more transparency. “The funding of election campaigns in the Cayman Islands is opaque,” the delegation said in the report.

They found that the lack of legislation limiting the source of campaign donations was “at odds with international norms which limit donations to legal residents and registered companies trading in the country”. In addition, they said the time period that campaign finances were regulated, which is currently from Nomination Day, was too short given that campaign spending began well before then, which, while legal, was “against the spirit of the legislation”.

This point, like many of the recommendations in this report, have been made previously and also echo some of those made by the domestic observers. But despite issues regarding the length of residency before a voter can register or a candidate can stand, as well as concerns about discrimination and the need to reduce the time it takes from registration to actually getting on the electoral roll, these recommendations have been largely ignored.

The mission pointed out at its press briefing that they cannot compel the government to make the necessary legal changes and that it is up to the people of the Cayman Island to make it known that they want and support these changes.

Responding to the report, Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell said the Elections Office will review the 15 recommendations by the international mission and those put forward by domestic observers. This will be followed by the development and implementation of formal proposals for changes to the Constitution, Elections Act, internal policies and procedures.

“The Elections Office senior team would like to thank both election observer teams for their efforts. We are pleased that our General Elections have been recognised as having been executed to high standards, and we look forward to actioning the improvements included in the recommendations,” Howell said.

The Elections Office has in the past suggested amendments based on previous CPA missions, but the legislature has failed to make any significant changes to date.

See the full report in the CNS Library.


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Category: 2021 General Elections, Elections, Politics

Comments (47)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The system is broken by design. Our political leadership deliberately, in an attempt to fix one perceived problem, created another problem. The excuse that was given for why Cayman Brac and Little Cayman had to have two representatives and why East End and North Side had to each have their own representative was that we wanted to maintain some type of traditional structure of political representation.

    The reality of the situation is that Cayman Brac, Little Cayman, East End and North Side would need to be combined into one constituency to achieve some level of equal representation.

    • Anonymous says:

      You should go check how many voters are actually in each of these districts before spouting crap.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Not allowing all legal residents the vote should be illegal

    • Anonymous says:

      Nowhere in the world allows non-citizen residents to vote. Nowhere!!!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Looks like we get the breed of extra entitled expats here eh.

      • Anonymous says:

        Except, of course, for the many countries that do. Google is you friend, but don’t let that interfere with your right to make foolish statements.

    • Betty says:

      That is not what the report dealt with. It was discussing residency tests which restricted the right of someone voting who would otherwise be allowed to vote.

      Bans on UK citizens voting when they have been resident over 10 years or so is almost certainly illegal under human rights laws that apply in Cayman. But that was not dealt with in the report.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Too many MP’s, too many high rise condos, too many Jamaicans, too many cars, too many mangroves being destroyed, and too many animal abusers. Get rid of these problems and things will improve. Guaranteed!!!

  4. Barcadere says:

    Make the Cayman Islands elections be funded by the Government, and you’ll cut off the private high stake contributions from the rich and wealthy (those handouts specialists) who’s looking a favor when one is elected.

    There also need to be a system for X amount of signatures that a prospective candidate needs to have, or meet to qualify to run for office in his/her district. These two will certainly cut the head of the snake……basically cutting out the corruption –

  5. Special Caymanians? says:

    Why the exception to the sister Islands as well as EE and NS? Are the people residing their worth more than those living on Grand Cayman? I thought it was one person one vote. Be fair and be consistent.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Not only a “boundary review” the criteria for candidates need to be reviewed.

  7. Anonymous says:

    “National Vote” (sure do miss Mr. Ezzard) Savannah..ian

  8. Anonymous says:

    Yet..only a certain class of Cayman Islands citizens can run for political office.

    [Apartheid is an Afrikaans word meaning “separateness”, or “the state of being apart”, literally “apart-hood” (from the Afrikaans suffix -heid)]

  9. Anonymous says:

    Direct rule is the only option.

  10. Anonymous says:

    It really not a fair solution to East Enders and North Sierra to disenfranchise them from their traditional vote. These two districts have different needs, interests and sub-cultures.

    • Anonymous says:

      You act like they are as far away as Brazil and Russia. It’s ridiculous that so many people get into office on this small island. But it’s not like anything in civil service is streamlined so…

    • Anonymous says:

      North Sierra – sounds really nice; so much more exotic than North Side.

      • Anonymous says:

        North Side is just as wonderful and exotic. Sorry I didn’t check what “autocorrect fixed”.

    • Anonymous says:

      Ok, but then BTE deserves 3 MPs to be fair. Why should NS or EE have as much say on island-wide matters as BTE? Add more people to NS and EE and move on. Their “subcultures” will still be around, just with a little less say-so.

      • Anonymous says:

        Then BTE should be split into 3 districts. Why they allowed that district to have so many more voters during the creation of the new electoral districts is the real question.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Vote buying is prevalent in these islands in every district. That is how bad candidates with big pockets funded by special interests that control them heavily influence the outcomes and win seats. Until that is addressed and there are investigations and convictions plus significant campaign financing reform nothing will change for the better and the same bad actors will win elections.

  12. Anonymous says:

    I’ve always said…getting into government/parliament with only 400 votes, and then having control over actions or inaction regarding the country’s international relations and domestic performance…is laughable.

    The candidates have little integrity, and are drawn from a small pool of greedy people who think their only purpose is to snaffle as much money during their time in office.

    • Anonymous says:

      2.01 “The candidates have little integrity, and are drawn from a small pool of greedy people”. There is a much larger pool of wannabee candidates greedier and with less integrity who are envious and desire to replace the present pool. We had better continue to keep this new set out of Parliament.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Common sense has one the day. It’s time to join NS and EE into voting district while also reducing sister islands representatives. There is absolutely no reason why we need 17 MPs.

  14. Anonymous says:

    For the love of god can you get the rational voters out from under the cloud of GTC

    • Anonymous says:

      Because the rational vote there was for who this time? The MP who was at least visible during the last term or … ?

      There may be other things that you can say about GT Central representation but irrationality is not one of them.

  15. Anonymous says:

    “During a press conference, the mission singled out Bodden Town East, the largest constituency on Grand Cayman with 1,664 voters, compared to the constituency of East End, the smallest with just 769 voters, as an example of a significant imbalance which results in a vote in BTE being more than twice as powerful as a vote in EE.”

    Other way around, the votes in EE would be of greater weight than BTE.

    CNS: Thanks!

  16. ThIs WrItInG Is VeRy IrRiTaTiNg says:

    Instead of balancing the constituencies before each election just change it to island wide voting and give everyone one vote.

  17. Anonymous says:

    And the word of the day….is “gerrymandering”

  18. Anonymous says:

    OMOV was wrong for Cayman!!

    • Anonymous says:

      The vote was wrong for Cayman. Direct rule is the only way as we are too immature to be given the right to vote.

  19. Anonymous says:

    Maybe now that Ezzard and Arden are put out to pasture there might be a chance at rectifying this problem … but I’m not holding my breath!

  20. Anonymous says:

    Cayman need a National Vote! All our leaders need to be accountable to all of us!

    • nauticalone345 says:

      I agree completely! That will also make corruption (vote buying) much more difficult, near impossible!

  21. Anonymous says:

    We don’t need 19 districts, the end.

    • Anonymous says:

      Most of the “members” can’t get decent jobs elsewhere. Parliament is an extension of Cayman’s social services network.

      • Anonymous says:

        Steady now – it’s part of the re- employment of felons program. How many MPs do we have that have been convicted by a court of criminal offences: drug dealing, assault? I can think of 3 straight away.

      • Anonymous says:

        Less than 200 “banked” votes in some districts wil guarantee you a job worth $150K a year plus all the extras your role provides in terms of lobbying opportunity. A fridge for a vote makes perfect economic sense in a jurisdiction which has never prosecuted treating or vote buying – ever.

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