50% of seats held by less than 50% of votes

| 29/01/2021

(CNS): The realities of ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies, given the size of electoral districts in Cayman, came home to voters after the 2017 General Election, when they found themselves with a government that no one had voted for, and in some constituencies a representative that was supported by less than half of the voters.

Nine of the 19 in parliament are currently held by MPs who were supported by less than 50% of those who turned out to vote.

In some cases, MLAs (now MPs) were returned in 2017 with well under half of the votes cast because three, four or even five candidates divided the vote to such an extent that several candidates now represent constituencies where well over 60% of the electors voted for someone else. While this is the case in any ‘first past the post’ system, in small constituencies the impact of a crowded field can be significant.

Despite now being one of the most popular politicians nationally, at the last election Ezzard Miller was returned with less than 34% of the vote in North Side, which was just 201 votes, as a total constituency turnout of just 597 votes was split four ways.

In East End, Arden McLean, the current opposition leader, was returned with just 272 votes, just under 46% of the total, and just 26 votes more than his nearest challenger. A third player took just 74 votes, which secured victory for McLean.

In Cayman’s largest constituency, Bodden Town East, Dwayne Seymour, who was instrumental in helping the formation of this current Unity Government, was returned with less than 38% of the vote, after nearly 700 people voted for someone else.

Some candidates won with over 50% of the vote, even in four-way races, and stood the test of a crowded field. Tara Rivers won West Bay South with almost 54% of the vote, despite having three challengers.

Meanwhile, Barbara Conolly emerged victorious in a competition between five candidates. She polled just over 40% of the vote, beating former minister Mike Adam into second place. But 27% of the vote was divided between three other contenders, none of whom reached the 10% threshold and lost their deposits.

Roy McTaggart won in a four-way race with 45.5% of the vote, which could place the heir apparent to the leadership of the People’s Progressive Movement in a vulnerable position if he faced a head to head race.

But this is is unlikely. McTaggart and all of the other incumbents on the government bench who fell short of the 50% mark in 2017 could still easily be re-elected, regardless of the loud calls from some in the community for a complete change because the chances that they will face only one challenger, the most successful way of ousting incumbents, is remote.

At the moment only a handful of new candidates have declared in George Town but with two months to go before Nomination Day that will change.

The public disquiet over how this current government was formed behind closed doors has been compounded by the refusal of legislators to remove Bush from his role as speaker. While this may fire up voters to get to the polls, it is also firing up candidates, and the enthusiasm of the latter could dash the hopes of the former.

Despite the efforts of activist groups, from the environment advocates to those campaigning to stop violence against women, in the current state of “disorganised politics”, a phrase coined by former minister and Newlands candidate Wayne Panton, change will be hard.

With no real political structure in place, a possible scenario is that dozens of candidates who are clearly not going to win will run for well meaning but misplaced reasons, making it much easier for incumbents to be returned.

While the Bush factor will play a part for all candidates at this election, especially incumbents, it may not be as significant as some voters hope. The incumbent for Prospect and former talk-show host, Austin Harris, was elected after admitting charges in 2015 of a drunken violent attack on his then girlfriend, which had almost no effect on his ability to garner 466 votes, or almost 55% of the turnout.

Prospect has increased in size since by 100 votes to 1,275, but two other candidates have already declared and there are another two potentials, so if Harris picks up the PPM loyalist votes, he may not need more than half of his original voters to stick with him to win, making him a hard man to topple from that seat.

However, in a head to head vote with one competent and genuine candidate who can turn out the 25% who did not show up to vote in the last election, that seat could flip.

This scenario is the same in many of the 19 seats, and it will be up to candidates to ask themselves if they have a realistic chance of winning. If, as many of them claim, they want to see change, are they are willing to sacrifice their own run to make it happen?

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Category: Analysis, Polls, Viewpoints & Analysis, Viewpoint & Analysis

Comments (40)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Our present OMOV system does not suit the small constituencies in Cayman. I voted for OMOV in the Referendum but I now see that it is wrong!

  2. Anonymous says:

    It only costs $1000 to nominate a donkey. Looking at how WBS is shaping up, I’d rather give the donkey my vote. The hard part is: do we have 19 donkeys with Caymanian grandparents?

    • Anonymous says:


    • Anonymous says:

      9.34am This is an asinine comment and totally disrespectful to Caymanians.To the ‘donkey’ who posted this I understand that it happens all the time in your home country,so go there and vote for all the donkeys you want.

  3. Anonymous says:

    CNS not sure what point you are trying to make. The One Man One vote system was clearly design to encourage a crowded field thereby making it increasingly unlikely for the winner to get more than 50% of the vote.

    I do believe the we should have a 2nd preference on the ballot to ensure that each candidate got at least 45% of the vote overall.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Shoot in Red Bay we I ky had 2 choices, the Premier and some other idiot.. I want no of them so didn’t vote, nore did other friends and family.

    Personally I prefer the old system, we could choose 4 candidates, in occasion I only voted for 1 person another 2.

    Our current system suck b@lls.

    Plus think about it, you get a couple hundred votes and a starting salary of $120,000+pa…wtf!

  5. Anonymous says:

    First past the post is not ideal, but multiple runoff elections would result in voter fatigue and then we’re back to square one. And now you have to factor in the time and money that was spent in holding the runoff election.

    While it is nice for the person elected to have more than 50% of the votes cast, it is meaningless if the number of votes cast has fallen to less than 50% of the number of persons eligible to vote. Either way you end up with a representative that more than half of the constituents didn’t vote for.

    It’s a sad fact but true, in a democracy you get the government you deserve. So instead of bitching about it on CNS, go out and get involved.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Cayman Islands should have 6 districts , George Town, West Bay, Bodden Town, East End, North Side and Cayman Brac/Little Caynan. One man one vote, each voter has only one vote Example, if 25 people running for George Town, the six people with the most votes would be elected.

  7. Anonymous says:

    CNS Whose in charge of counting the votes? Can we be quaranteed the election results will be fair and square?

  8. NoSmoking Mirror says:

    The headline does not tell the full story. The one man one vote held for the first time in 2017, was a great success compared to previous years.

    For the record the 2013 results shows only 4 candidates received more than 50% of the votes.
    2013 Results

    North Side Ezzard Miller 70.11%

    Bodden Town Osbourne Bodden 44.95%
    Wayne Panton 43.72%
    Alva Suckoo 38.77%
    Anthony Eden 49.57%

    West Bay McKeeva Bush 47.26%
    Bernie Bush 43.60%
    Eugene Ebanks 39.83%
    Tara Rivers 44.28%

    George Town Kurt Tibetts 42.38%
    Winston Conolly 34.99%
    Joey Hew 33.29%
    Roy McTaggart 37.06%
    Alden McLaughlin 36.81%
    Marco Archer 35.78%

    Cayman Brac Moses Kirkconell 75.21%
    Juliana O’Connoly 55.21%

    East End Arden McLean 57.26%

    We have to get used to the fact that many candidates will get elected with less than 50% of the votes cast in a crowded field in any type of scenario.

    • Anonymous says:

      You need a primary system with a run off election if nobody gets 50%.

      • Anonymous says:

        Either that, or use a Single Transferrable Vote system – effectively does the same as a run-off (as people can put their second, third etc choices down in one go). The counting is a bit more complex, but you only need a single voting day. If no-one gets 50%, then the one with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and their second-choice votes are then allocated out to the remaining candidates. If there is still no-one with 50%, then again, the one with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and their votes reallocated (to their second choice, if the second choice is still in the race, or third choice, if their second choice has already been eliminated), rinse and repeat until someone gets 50%.

  9. Anonymous says:

    CNS your analysis is factual but at the end of the day, its not the politicians fault if voters are too lazy to go vote. Likewise, there is nothing stop most people standing themselves.

    • Anonymous says:

      “nothing stopping most people standing themselves”
      (a) second passport
      (b) no Caymanian grandparent <—what does this confer?!?
      (c) concern about sullying intact professional and personal dignity, and family name, by associating with criminals
      (d) observing a dishonest, violent, drunk, repeat offender continue to preside over the House as Speaker, with impunity, even after a criminal conviction, and still denying a hate crime

      • Anonymous says:

        To 9.30am The answer to
        a) get the right passport.
        b) Can’t help that one.
        c) if you have criminal associates you are ashamed of or don’t want exposed, don’t run.
        d) if you don’t run and he is returned you will still get to eatch…from the outside.

  10. Anonymous says:

    cayman democracy is a joke…50% of the people have no representation or voting rights.

    • Anonymous says:

      Why is this always an argument? Which country allows non-nationals to vote?

      • Anonymous says:

        Er, the majority where the non-national is resident for a year or more.

      • Anonymous says:

        Many do after a specified term of residency, 8:49. After all, they are paying the taxes ( duty import fees etc). No taxation without representation. Remember?

      • Anonymous says:

        That’s just it…we still don’t know who we are do we? All those imaginary grades of belongership don’t matter at the polls. The Electorate has doubled since 2004. Gone are the days of 10-12 new CI citizen hopefuls per year publishing their head shot conflict checks in the back of the Compass. There are many of today’s voting Caymanians (many first/sec gen and their kids) who cannot relate to: creationist-driven agendas, corruption noseblindness, blacklist compliance dithering, ego and greed driven developmental approvals, unaccountability, opaque record keeping, and administrative obstruction, xenophobia, homophobia, racism, animal cruelty, and/or environmental nihilism. There are some aspects of Cayman culture that should be fiercely defended, others that really need to go, asap – before those flaws wreck us into avoidable bog of international sanctions, or smothering debt on bad, unaccountable policy, asset, subsidy, and infrastructure errors.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Welcome to the idiocy of ONE MAN ONE VOTE and the blistering idiots that voted for it! Your get and deserve the moronic representation you voted for. Enjoy it.

    • Anonymous says:

      It would work better if we had a national vote and and the 10 people with the most votes won (I say 10 simply because with a population as small as ours they is more than enough).

    • Anonymous says:

      12:35. Another grass roots initiative.

  12. Anonymous says:

    How about 9 of the 19 we pay for, are obstructed from shadowing the sitting unelected government and serving a useful democratic function? They cannot debate and /or vote for, or against, rafts of legislation signed and approved via secret Cabinet meetings and private caucus they are excluded from attending. It’s quasi-authoritarianism, with a squeeze of phony creationist white-washing, buttressed with illegally paid foreign misinformation campaigns, using public funds. Couldn’t be more corrupt.

  13. Anonymous says:

    The fix is simple: if no one got 50%+, then have a runoff election between the two people who received the most votes.

    • Anonymous says:

      This would be the best way to make it fair, as a incumbent could pay 2 others to run just to split the votes and therefore win with less than 50% this would help to stop the current fraud that is in place.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Madness! Given the population, we should be having a national vote – everyone gets to vote for 3 and the 5 or 7 with the most votes are in. Absolutely no need for 19 MPs when 90% of them do nothing at all.

    • Anonymous says:

      Very poor idea, smaller amount of representatives with a national vote means that no one is really accountable to the people individually , the issue we had even with distinct multi-member constituencies was that MLAs used to shirk their responsibilities in their districts because there were other members there who they could tell people to go to. What use are 6 MLAs in George Town when you can only realistically get in contact with one or two of them who hold no power on their own?
      We need more members in parliament who are separated from Cabinet the current system of only 19 means all you need for a government is 10 people, 8 of whom come the next election will be ministers bound by collective responsibility and the incentive to maintain their government for extra pay and power, the solution to our maladministration is decentralising power from Cabinet and caucus meetings and empowering the opposition to actually hold the government to account as a government in waiting not as a band of 6 grumpy men waiting for their turn to call themselves “Honourable”

      You want a Government that does more than rubber stamp Alden’s policies in the LA and Cabinet, then lock the size of cabinet to 8 people and bump up the number of MPs to 30, he would actually have to go down to the LA and explain himself to the opposition and his own backbenches, there need to be people on either side of the house waiting to pounce on a government that messes up.

      THAT is what is missing here, everyone has a piece of the pie and will fight to the death to keep it

      I submit we need a parliament filled with people who are starving for the opportunity to work for the people not satisfied on the scraps of power they receive in exchange for being a mindless yes vote like the “Parliamentary Secretaries” we have now

      There needs to be pressure within the system (provided by a robust opposition and government MPs waiting to pounce) and pressure created from outside the system created by regular citizens via demostrations, in elections and with movements

      We have neither of those in Cayman its why nothing changes regardless of who is in power

      • Anonymous says:

        We need less politicians not more.

        • Anonymous says:

          Less politicians not more so that when they all get together and decided to do something in a smoke filled back room without consulting the people there is no one willing to stand up for us outside of that room are you stupid

          I want enough MPs that there is no conceivable way to get them all together in a agreement on any one thing

          The thing wrong with Cayman now is once you get your 10 MPs and you hadnt out ministries and extra pay there is no one who wants to oppose the government and give that up

          The Westminster parliamentary system doesn’t work if everyone in government is a minister

          The backbenches need to be the ones who get the final say not cabinet

        • Anonymous says:

          We pay for 19, but only get 10, doing everything in secret.

  15. The Constitutional Critic says:

    Throwing out first past the post should be first (pun intended) in a long list of electoral reforms that Caymanians need to push for in order to have a more accountable, responsive and representative government

    A system where a person ‘wins’ and is elected with almost 70% of the electorate having voted against them is fundamentally flawed not to mention anti-democratic

    • Anonymous says:

      Cayman Islands drain the swamp, DON’T, repeat DON’T vote for woman beaters, people that was involved in drugs. (they ruined many young people for life) ,for those that does shady deals with kick backs only thinking of them selves and those that was in high positions in Government that only wants to hire their family or close friends

      • Anonymous says:

        Dishonest nepotists are drawn to politics because they thrive there. They can lie with impunity, exercise power they’ve never had, reward cronies and enrich themselves. Those with integrity are put at deliberate disadvantage, or are ineligible to run for office, or don’t want to sully themselves in the slime-by-association. Hence we are limited to reshuffling the same field of disappointments every four years, and with no mechanism to remove them – even for violent assaults and other criminality!

    • Anonymous says:

      People are now complaining of the one man one vote system. We had a grass roots campaign to give us one man one vote. That led to Kenneth beating Marco, Alva beating Wayne and Bernie getting elected.

      There was a grass roots campaign to stop the west Bay by pass

      There was a grass roots campaign to stop the Port

      There is now a grass roots campaign to kick out the most successful government in our history and replace them with the unemployed and more talk show hosts.

      Get my drift.

    • Anonymous says:

      Folks have a hard look at the candidates that have declared so far and ask yourself these questions

      Can I they go on the world stage and represent you.

      What exactly have the candidates achieved in their personal and professional life.

      Do they constantly tear down Caymanians.

      Do they constantly complain without offering solutions.

    • Anonymous says:

      Just no more failed talk show hosts.

    • It’s Time Cayman says:

      One man One vote rally in these islands was pushed forward by a bunch of skalawags who only saw the premise of the so called “coat tail effect” of politics and sought to break up the so called tribal type of politics which they perceived the previous system had and in the end serve as their in to the political system. Some are still waiting for their turn to rape and pillage.

      Obviously there was no thought of how the numbers would play out in this relatively small community where and by which their system could elect persons by sheer popularity and diminished number of votes. These so called patriots of one man vote got some of their figure heads elected last election and they have proven that none of them are worth their titles as Representatives, For there has been no comprehensive plan or strategy nor has there been any impulse to better the lives of the populace. NAU figures rise astronomically even without the Pandemic, an ever changing education system which is ever failing our youth, higher cost of living in general no effort to examine and take positive measures, the Dump of course, boundless and endless construction with no clear and unequivocal infrastructure plan in place, traffic/ transportation issues ever growing etc.

      Now somebody tell us has one man one vote made any difference on the lives of the indigenous population, with wages of $6.00 an hour and young people never going to be able to afford a piece of property nor a high rise apartment. We now truly know “who we have been developing for” , the cry against the previous electoral system now so largely amplified by the one man one vote clan.

      Fellow voters if you don’t have the feel that any or all of those presently elected or those coming out to be elected; that they are individually or collectively willing to die for this country, don’t waste your time voting for them. Seek out intelligent tried and tested individuals who truly love this country and have so shown through deeds and not just words. Men and women of high caliber are within our society we need to find them and encourage them to stand and govern these islands. We don’t need people who are silent when injustices are committed . We don’t need yes sah or people in parliament who don’t understand what is being discussed but yet vote aye on every government motion. We dont need abusive women beaters in our Parliament nor females who who don’t see the cause of gender equality in all aspects as a priority.

      Where we go and what we achieve as a people in terms of the aspirations of mothers and fathers and our children’s future , in terms of a good quality of life and a decent standard of living and great opportunities for all:; this all depends on the quality of people we elect to govern this country . Many issues beset us both internal and internally but the solution it’s all in the people’s hands.

      For a better Cayman Is Islands choose right in the May 2021 elections your life depends on it.