Revised constituencies stick to historic boundaries

| 08/08/2023 | 30 Comments
Acting Governor Franz Manderson receives the EBC Report from Chair Dr Lisa Handley. Looking on (L-R) are Commission members Steve McField and Adriannie Webb joined by Acting DG Stran Bodden

(CNS): A draft report from the 2023 Electoral Boundary Commission sticks to the Cayman Islands’ six traditional districts but redraws constituency lines within those districts. The new proposed election landscape has created constituencies that differ significantly in population size countrywide but are more evenly balanced within the districts of West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town, North Side, East End and the Sister Islands.

Tasked with a complex and difficult exercise, given the rapid population rise in certain parts of Grand Cayman in recent years, the commissioners — Dr Lisa Handley, Steve McField and Adriannie Webb — have balanced tradition with equity by retaining district lines while reshuffling the boundaries of the constituencies.

The commission’s primary objective was to review the electoral district boundaries, which is called for in the Constitution at least once every eight years. The commission examined the existing electoral districts, changes in population and potential modifications to the number of elected members of parliament. The process involved soliciting views from members of the public and seeking advice from various stakeholders.

The report and its recommendations were handed over to Acting Governor Franz Manderson on Friday and the document was published on the Elections Office website Tuesday.

It takes into account a potential electorate of just under 29,000 if everyone currently entitled to register to vote does so, which would require around 5,000 more people joining the current electoral roll of 23,569 voters.

In the draft report, the commissioners also concluded that, given the changing shape of the proposed constituencies, they should be renamed, dropping geographical descriptions and community names (such as West Bay South, George Town East, Red Bay or Newlands) and instead using numbers.

In Bodden Town, which is home to the most populated constituencies, the discrepancies between the four seats have been reduced. But every individual seat in the district is far bigger than any of the seven seats in George Town. Bodden Town 2 (formerly Savannah) now has 2,016 people who are either registered or entitled to register to vote and has become the country’s largest seat.

Meanwhile, a slight boundary shift between the two Sister Islands constituencies — Cayman Brac 1 and Cayman Brac 2 and Little Cayman — has evened those two seats to a difference of just ten voters or potential voters. However, if the EBC proposals are adopted by parliament, Cayman Brac 2 would become the smallest constituency in the country with 575 voters.

The Sister Islands are guaranteed two MPs under the Constitution, but with a declining population, these seats are destined to remain a mere fraction of the size of the constituencies on Grand Cayman. This undermines the principle of equity in representation as they are, in the words of the commissioners, “dramatically underpopulated”.

Although not guaranteed any protection under the Constitution, the situation in East End (846 voters and potential voters) and in North Side (978), the decision to reflect traditional boundaries throws up more significant discrepancies. Their neighbouring constituency of Bodden Town East (to be renamed Bodden Town 4), which has 2,008 eligible voters, is more than twice the size of each of those traditional seats.

The four Bodden Town constituencies are all close to 2,000 qualified voters, while in George Town, the seven seats range from 1,573 in George Town 1 (formerly George Town North) to 1,636 in George Town 2 (GTC). Despite being the capital’s most populated seat, GT2 would still be 25% smaller than Cayman’s largest. The international recommendation is that there should be no more than a 10% discrepancy between constituency sizes.

The commissioners said over-populated constituencies are unfair to both the voters that reside in them and the MPs that represent them. “While every effort was made to ensure equal populations of the constituencies within the six traditional districts, there is considerable population variation across these six traditional districts,” they write in their report.

However, the commissioners have added an additional recommendation that is very unlikely to prove popular with the electorate and throws up more problems. The report concludes that, given the expectation that the population will continue to grow in Bodden Town, an additional seat should be added to that district to address an even greater population disparity in the not too distant future.

But alongside the additional cost of another politician, it also creates a parliament of 20 MPs and the potential for a hung parliament. But with the party system in Cayman still not fully adopted, clear results have nevertheless remained elusive after many elections, as illustrated by the post-vote horsetrading in the last three national polls. This will ultimately be a political decision by the current government and proposed to the parliament.

The fifth seat option for Bodden Town proposes significant changes. Bodden Town 1 and Bodden Town 2 (Newlands and Savannah) would be reduced in size, while the current BTW and BTE would be sliced into three new constituencies, running largely from north to south.

Several existing constituencies have seen their boundaries moved slightly, so if these proposals are adopted, some residents will find themselves in new constituencies, and MPs running for re-election will find they lose or gain voters. In Cayman Brac, for example, the boundary has shifted west of Ashton Reid Drive, which means that residents living along Dennis Foster Road down to Cottage Drive would become part of what is currently Cayman Brac East.

In West Bay, the boundary between West Bay 3 and 4 has moved slightly south, moving several constituents from the current West Bay South into West Bay Central. The rejigging of the internal boundary lines in parts of both George Town and Bodden Town also see some electors moving from one constituency to another to re-balance the potential voter headcount within each district.

Now that the report has been published, residents will be able to view the maps and proposals online immediately. Hard copies are expected to be available in the coming weeks before the report goes to parliament.

As per the constitutional requirements, Premier Wayne Panton should present the report to parliament for approval, which would give effect, with or without modification, to the recommendations outlined. If any amendments are proposed, officials said that the premier would provide a statement explaining the reasons for the adjustments.

The premier and his Cabinet will need to decide in the first instance if adding a constituency, as recommended by the EBC, is the direction the government wants to go since it would increase the number of MPs to twenty.

See the full 2023 draft Boundary Commission Report in the CNS Library.


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Category: Elections, Politics

Comments (30)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    It should be an island wide vote. there should only be five representatives for Grand Cayman one for little Cayman and two for Cayman Brac. and everyone gets to vote for one premier.

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  2. Anonymous says:

    To think you actually paid for that.

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  3. Anonymous says:

    This is perfect for legal challenge.

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    • Anonymous says:

      maybe less voters on the sister 2 islands,but there are lots more people living there, lots more people on the roads/Stores etc than what it was 10 years ago.

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  4. Anonymous says:

    Why is the Queen’s picture still there????

    Did we get a holiday in May ?!?!

  5. Anonymous says:

    The democratic standard is that constituencies should be as close in number of voters as possible, as it says in the article, no more than 10%. They have neglected the obvious solution of merging the smallest seats and we will have a variation from 575 to over 2,000. It is not an exaggeration to say the Commission has utterly failed. Unless of course they prefer the nepotism of “who ya daddy is?” politics.

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  6. Anonymous says:

    Given Parliament is barely meeting, maybe this will be heard before the next election cycle?

  7. Anonymous says:

    mickey mouse wears a cayman islands wristwatch.

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  8. Anonymous says:

    Disgusting promotion of inequality.

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  9. Anonymous says:

    we’d be better served by amending the rules relating to term limits, removing any opportunity for anyone to be elected for a cumulative term longer than say 10 years. that will help negate the obvious issues that these electoral districts create for us all (Looking at you WB/LC/CB/EE/BT…oh, everywhere actually!)

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    • Anonymous says:

      Term limits on convicted criminals? How about a clean police clearance? Some of our Ministers would be flipping burgers in the private sector, and that’s where they should be sent. Far away from access to our money.

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  10. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely pathetic. How much did this report cost..

    Get rid of these old-fashioned districts. Island wide elections and anybody can vote for anybody.

    And put a maximum age of 40 on candidates, and no business relation.

    People are stupid, but here in cayman, it is over the top.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Your proposal is actually pathetic. Where else in the world is it done the way you have advocated for ? Max age of 40?? Are you kidding me ?

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      • Anonymous says:

        so far nowhere, so i it could be good start.
        you want bush, eden Miller etc get you stick in time ?
        this place is 50 years behind the rest of the world, when it comes to social development.
        all you guys do is pray and hate different thinking people, because you dont have the brain not education to understand.

        and dont tell to go back to my country, because without expats you would still be fishing.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Oh how I wish that you were near me 7:31 . I would certainly oblige you with a swift kick up the rear. Asinine fareiner.

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  11. Seriously? says:

    One person. One vote.

    The districts must be equal in voters or the slogan is a joke.

    I hope these esteemed people got paid by check because the check needs to be cancelled.

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  12. Anonymous says:

    Great news. Now can the hundreds of pending status applications be processed so that the hundreds of eligible voters waiting a grant of status can actually register to vote?

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    • Anonymous says:

      Hundreds? Think you will find we are comfortably into 4 figures now – there is a 2 year back log on dealing with them ( the status board being led by the same Steve McField that headed the Electoral Boundary Commission, who has zero interest in adding new Caymanians).

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      • Anonymous says:

        No way. We have the rule of law here and a world class civil service. What you suggest is impossible. That would never be allowed to happen.

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  13. Anonymous says:

    What a waste of time and money.
    We need a referendum in the next election to amend the constitution that all electorate districts must fall within international guidelines.

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    • Anonymous says:

      I’ll do mine as soon as America does theirs. And England drops their Burroughs that have voted single party for longer than Cayman has existed. – International Norms my left foot. Guidelines no country in the world follows but thoughtless people here want to throw the sensibility of geographic representation out with the bathwater as if those are also not international recommendations. (Showing how useless following fashion is.)

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      • Anonymous says:

        Ah yes the ‘sensible geographic representation’ because there is a distinct geographic difference between Newlands and Savannah, or GTE and GTW

        We drew imaginary lines on a map 70 years ago and now idiots like you act as if there is some inherent sacrosanctity in them.

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        • Anonymous says:

          Exactly, like west Bayer’s are different from north siders. It’s been inmates running the asylum for about 200 years and until the majority of population start to wisen up, that going to continue to be the status quo. Tbh if I was a greedy politician Id do my best to keep all of us ignorant. Might explain the logic behind juju running education ministry for the last generation.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Farce.

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  15. Anonymous says:

    Can we get rid of single member constituencies.

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    • Anonymous says:

      Nothing wrong with single-member constituencies, we just have too many constituencies!

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      • Anonymous says:

        Too few actually – the issue currently is that Cabinet can make decisions without ever consulting or being held to account by Parliament

        We are imitating a Parliamentary system where about 1 in 5 members are ministers in the UK, here its essentially 1 in 2

        That and the other areas of our government like the district councils are non-existent

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