House OKs mobile polling

Elderly or physically disabled voters in Cayman will now be given the option of having the election polling station taken to them, instead of having to go there on Election Day.

The Legislative Assembly approved the introduction of mobile voting stations, also known as advanced polling, by an overwhelming majority vote Friday. A procedural third vote on the issue was expected to pass the House Monday.

‘Those who are physically challenged, for the first time in the Cayman Islands, will be allowed…to vote in the privacy of their own homes,’ Chief Secretary George McCarthy said during debate on the bill last week.

The lone ‘no’ vote on the proposal came from Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush, who said the introduction of mobile voting stations would cast doubts on the democratic process.

‘Mobile voting has many serious limitations, not the least being cost,’ Mr. Bush said. ‘It will also increase legitimate fears of the voters about the secrecy of their votes.’

The Opposition Leader also argued that voters, particularly the elderly, might be intimidated by the new voting method.

‘This system…could ultimately reduce the participation in the voting process,’ he said.

Government ministers argued that mobile polling would replace a postal balloting system that has long been the subject of controversy around election time.

‘It will reduce the possibility of tampering and of fraud in elections,’ Education Minister Alden McLaughlin said.

Changes to the Election Law that allow for mobile polling will let those who require that service choose one person to assist them in casting their ballots. A civil service representative will oversee the voting in that person’s home, and a representative of candidates in an electoral district is allowed to be sent to ensure the process is conducted fairly.

‘Every candidate will want to send an agent, no one’s going to want to rely on the government’s agent,’ Mr. Bush said.

The proposal is expected to decrease Cayman’s reliance on postal ballots, which have been used in the past by voters who couldn’t make it to a polling station.

Mr. McCarthy said those postal ballots will still be available to Caymanians who work or go to school overseas.

Mr. Bush said he would rather see the government improve the postal ballot system, which he said had worked well in the past. He said improvements could include larger and bolder lettering to make sure participants can see the ballot.

‘I have never known of one election where there were not allegations of…shenanigans in the postal voting,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘There have been allegations of people who were dead voting in the 2000 election.’

‘There is absolutely no substance to the argument that reducing the use of the postal ballot is somehow going to lead to less secrecy (in voting),’ he said.

Mr. McLaughlin also pointed out that mobile polling stations might speed up the ballot counting process following an election, which has been slowed in the past by the tallying of mail-in votes.