Voters displaced from their homes by Hurricane Ivan could swell the numbers of persons applying to vote by postal ballot this year.
Election officials will not know until 29 April how many postal ballots will figure in the 11 May General Elections. But they are preparing for the likelihood that the September storm will be a factor.
Voters planning to apply for postal ballots should do so as soon as possible because of the detailed process involved.
That process was explained last week by Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez, together with Deputy Supervisors Orrett Connor and Colford Scott. They also reviewed the categories of registered voters who may apply for postal ballots.
Ivan-displaced voters could be covered in one or two categories: those unable to go in person to their polling station without making a journey by air or sea; those no longer residing at their qualifying address.
Mr. Gomez noted that the reference to ‘journey by air or sea’ usually is thought of as referring to voters in Little Cayman. They would have to travel to West End Cayman Brac to vote in person, but they have the option of a postal ballot.
Now, since a number of people have had to move while their homes are being repaired or rebuilt, voters normally living on Grand Cayman could be staying on Cayman Brac and even overseas.
Other reasons for applying to vote by postal ballot include the general nature of one’s occupation; service as a member of Her Majesty’ Forces; absence from the Islands ‘for whatever reason’.
People who work at the various polling stations may also apply.
The final category pertains to illness or infirmity. The Elections Law uses the phrase ‘blindness or any other physical incapacity’.
But election officials pointed to the many measures that have been taken so that the handicapped or infirm can go to the polls to vote if they wish.
For example, there are wheelchairs, access ramps and extra-wide voting booths at every polling place. There is also provision in the law for such persons to ask the presiding officer for help in marking the ballot paper. The voter may even ask for the presence of a friend.
As already announced, voters could begin applying for postal ballots as of Friday, 18 February. Friday, 29 April, is the last day applications will be received.
Registering Officer Applications for postal ballots may be obtained from the Registering Officer in each district and should be returned to the Registering Officer. He or she will determine if the applicant qualifies. The Registering Officer is obliged to inform applicants of that decision.
After the Registering Officer has approved the application for a postal ballot, the information is conveyed to the Returning Officer for that district.
The Returning Officer then advises candidates when he or she will be sending out postal ballots. Candidates may then choose to be present in order to witness that only voters on the postal ballot list are receiving ballots. This step replicates what happens at the polls, where candidates or their agents are entitled to watch who is given a ballot.
The Returning Officer prepares for each voter a package containing a ballot; a certificate of identity which has to be witnesses by someone who is not a candidate or candidate’s agent; and envelopes in which to return the ballot.
This material is sent by registered mail. For an individual who is unable to attend the post office, there is a special authorisation form at the post office for the person who picks up the voting material.
Once a person is issued a postal ballot, this indication is made on the voters list (register of electors) and that person cannot vote at the polls.
Returning postal ballots
Voters should return postal ballots as soon as possible, either by hand, by post or by courier. They may be returned up until the close of the polls on Election Day.
Although Election Day is a public holiday, the post offices will accommodate ballots on that day.
However, election official hope no one will wait that long.