Elections Office turns to candidate qualification

| 30/03/2017
Cayman News Service

Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell

(CNS Elections): With 63 people seeking election in May, officials from the Elections Office will now spend the next two days ensuring that all of them are qualified to stand, as several question have been raised around a small number of would-be politicians, officials have confirmed. Following changes to the Elections Law after the issues raised before and after the 2013 result, the office now has the power to make full inquiries before Election Day about all of the candidates’ qualifications.

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said his staff had begun checking that candidates are qualified; if they are not they will move to the next step, which is to advise the nominated candidates in question. He said that the office had not yet sent any correspondence to any individuals who may not be qualified because the law places the onus on the candidates in the first instance.

“The process changed after the 2013 election and the challenges that came around the Rivers-Hewitt trial,” Howell said. “The law was amended in 2016 to put the onus fully on the candidates, so they make a declaration on the nomination form that they are duly qualified to be nominated. We then check it post-nomination so we don’t check qualifications during the receipt of the documents. But we now have two days to work on that. We will then communicate with any candidates that might fall into that group.”

Howell explained that once they have been informed that there are questions about qualifications and if the candidate decides not to withdraw their application, the next step is to contest that in the Grand Court.

The elections supervisor said that the law had also been amended to allow his office to request documents from criminal records, the immigration department and other government agencies to check the qualifications. He said that a couple of questions have already been raised about some candidates and they will be following up on those “to find out whether or not there is a disqualification criteria”.

In 2013 the Elections Office found itself in the middle of some inequities surrounding candidates. Richard Christian was disqualified on the grounds that he held an American as well as a Caymanian passport, and Kent McTaggart was forced to drop out before nomination as he had not been resident for family medical reasons for the full seven years before election day, as required by the law.

But both issues applied to Tara Rivers, who was not forced to step aside or be disqualified before the election. But a challenge was then mounted by John Hewitt, a West Bay voter and husband of UDP candidate Velma Hewitt. The challenge was unsuccessful after the chief justice found that while Rivers was physically absent from the island during the seven-year time period before election, she was still resident.

He also found that although she was working as a lawyer at a major firm in London, he considered it as educational and career development, interpreting the firm as an educational establishment, as study exempts candidates from the seven-year continuous residency in Cayman before an election.

Rivers also won the argument over the passport, as the court came down on her side that having a US passport because she was born there did not mean she had sworn any allegiance to the American government.

The case caused significant controversy as the findings conflicted with advice from the attorney general, which resulted in the other candidates being forced to bow out or give up their American passports, possibly unnecessarily.

The Hewitts were bankrupted after Rivers’ legal costs were awarded against them, despite the warnings from the chief justice that such a move would have a chilling impact on the democratic right of voters to challenge elected officials and for the courts to settle important questions of ambiguity regarding election qualification.

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Category: Election News

Comments (26)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    I believe he worked for a government authority ( not running a family owned business that he inherited) and therefore had to resign in order to run. It’s risky but I for one appreciate his true desire to help the people of Cayman Brac. Stop your nonsense.

  2. Unison says:

    I’m a bit dissappointed that the Elections Office are not giving out maps that shows the boundaries and the candidates. They should be educating people still about the new one-man-one-vote system. I have a feeling many still don’t understand and don’t know who they are voting for. Being a first time for the country, the Election Office should be in educating mode as well

    If anyone is still confused, direct them to the CNS Election Section map (click here). So long as they know their district, they can find out who the candidates are in that district.

  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS you will need to get some temporary help between now and election to scrub comments and get them posted faster than it is currently happen. Election news is developing so fast that taking over 24 hours to post comments will make them out dated by time they get up. Perhaps you could not screen/sensor the comments and just allow a report button for potentionally libelous comments.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Any update yet on this story?

  5. Anonymous says:

    I am sure the candidates are reading these comments just like the rest of us. You would think the candidates would be so quick to jump on here and clear things up. They should be telling us how we have misunderstood the qualification requirements or that we have received misinformation on them and detailing how they are certain they qualify. Instead – crickets!! Deafening silence. They are just hoping they slip by elections office, that’s why.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Leave them be and let them all lose their deposits. Another 15k or so in the coffers couldn’t hurt.

  7. Anonymous says:

    And word is that a certain Prospect BIG candidate just got outed on Facebook by is not so happy wife. Does being a sneak-cheat disqualify him or does it make him even more eligible? SMH.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Wasn’t Catherine Tyson living in the USA between 2015 and 2016?

  9. Unison says:

    Cns, I can’t even see his face :/

  10. Anonymous says:

    Frank McField’s passport should show he doesn’t meet the residency requirement. He packed his bags and moved to Nicuragua or Costa Rica or some where like that after last election.

  11. Sharkey says:

    Mr. Howell where are the full qualifications criteria ? Or are they been just made up today .

  12. Anonymous says:

    What about Alric Lindsay? Was he “resident” in Belize or Cayman. He certaintly seemed to have give up all hope on Cayman and spend a rather long time down there. Certainly more than a holiday, I would say.

  13. Question says:

    Is Mario Rankin eligible? Doesn’t he have a conviction for dishonesty ?

    • Anonymous says:

      Not necessarily. You see, in Cayman if you get caught, it doesn’t count.

  14. Anonymous says:

    The internet we love is some times the internet we hate.
    Application to be a Notary Public in Florida… see this link and notice the oath.


    Which candidate is a Notary Public…. see this link


    • Vigilant says:

      Love it investigative work. We the voters must remain vigilant and flag up as much as we can before the deadlines. Now Elections office please do your jobs

    • Anonymous says:

      Wow! What happens now? If someone knowingly isn’t qualified to run and gets caught trying to beat the system are there any ramifications?

    • Anonymous says:

      At least he’s done something with his life. What have you done with yours? It’s amazing how people love tearing each other down. That’s why foreigners taking over. Caymanians too busy tearing each other down. At least, he’s not snorting crack which I’m sure you would like because you’re so intimidated by a successful young person.

      • Anonymous says:

        He is a honest , hard working young man, leave him a lone. He is NOT spending money on the dopers/drunkers ruining the country. So you think hard and shut up.


        • Anonymous says:

          5:01 pm, agreed with you, he is not buying votes with money to buy dope/liquer for them kind of people.. He is an honest god fearing, inteiligent man,.

        • Anonymous says:

          Where exactly does he work? He quit the one real job he had after less than 2 years.

      • Anonymous says:

        Done something? Entertaining people for money and working for 2 years doesn’t qualifying as “done something.” Put in the effort to make a difference in the islands and not just in your bank account.