Referendum issues are still undecided

Less than three months away from a scheduled vote on Cayman Islands’ constitutional reform, it is unclear what the question on the ballot will look like or even when the referendum will actually be held.

Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said to a group of about 65 people in West Bay on Monday, 25 February that government hasn’t decided either of those matters.

Mr. McLaughlin and Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts have both said the vote could be pushed back from its initial late May date if most Caymanians felt they didn’t have enough time to consider the issues.

The government has also said it would like to limit the vote on constitutional reform to just one question; a simple yes or no decision on the entire proposal.

However, it seems that could also be subject to change.

‘If, at the end of this process, there’s a consensus then possibly we could include two or maybe three questions,’ Mr. McLaughlin said, adding that the separate queries on the ballot would likely be issues identified as the most contentious.

‘The problem identified to us by the experts, and it’s fairly logical, is how do you decide what are the issues…which ones are more important than others?’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘If this one-man, one-vote thing stands out as an issue on which there is division then perhaps we can consider one or two (more questions).’

What the government doesn’t want to do is have voters go to the polls looking at a laundry list of items, and decide each line-by-line.

‘There are many people in this country who are challenged even to mark who their particular choice is on the (general election) ballot,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘The advice we have is, if we make it too complicated, we’re going to have major problems with the outcome of the exercise.’

Some attending Monday night’s meeting at John Cumber Primary said the ballot should be extended to consider constitutional reform issues one by one.

‘I believe we’re going to have a contentious area in human rights, we’re going to have a contentious item in one-man, one-vote, we’re going to have contention in terms of the governor’s role, we’re going to have contention on whether there’s a chief minister and so forth,’ said Carlyle McLaughlin. ‘That’s about four issues already you’d have to separate out.’

The Legislative Assembly still has to approve the holding of a referendum in accordance with Cayman Islands law, but it’s not certain whether the ballot language issue will be settled at that time.

The fourth meeting of the LA is still in session, although lawmakers have not set a date for when it will resume or what matters will be taken up when it does.