Referendum workers stand down

Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez had nothing but good to say this week as he thanked the 200 people involved in preparing for the referendum that has now been postponed until next year.

When the intention to hold Cayman’s first referendum was announced in January, Mr. Gomez and his team began recruiting workers from the public and private sector to serve as officers and clerks for the 39 polling stations and 17 divisions that would have been set up.

He needed 158 people. He found 30 new recruits; the rest who volunteered had served in previous elections.

Another 26 workers, mostly from the Agriculture Department, formed the logistics unit and seven fire officers were in place as drivers.

The Elections Office held several training sessions, for which the workers were not paid. Police officers also attended to familiarise themselves with the polling process.

Mr. Gomez praised everyone’s willingness to participate and come to night sessions after working all day at their regular jobs. ‘That was quite a sacrifice of their time,’ he said.

They would have been paid for their service on the actual day of the referendum poll, but that also would have been a sacrifice since the day would have been a holiday, Mr. Gomez pointed out.

Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott remarked on how receptive the workers were to modifications of the training programme.

Both men said the training was not a waste of time. ‘We had embarked on a major recruitment drive,’ Mr. Gomez explained. ‘In recruiting these individuals we advised them the training was not only for the referendum but also for general elections. All officers had the benefit of being cross-trained. When we get ready next year, we’ll schedule a couple more sessions as a refresher.’

When Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts launched the constitutional modernisation review in January, he cited a target date in May for the referendum. It was subsequently moved to the latter part of July. Last week, Mr. Tibbetts announced the postponement of the referendum until 20 May 2009, the same date as the next General Elections (Caymanian Compass, 30 June).

The Elections Office may be a bit quieter as a result of the postponement, but not for long.

Two civil servants seconded to the Elections Office for logistics and assignments duties are returning to their normal posts: Mr. Wintroy Randal at the Department of Environmental Health and Mr. Egbert Jackson at the Planning Department.

Mr. Gomez will return on Monday to the Ministry for District Administration, Planning, Agriculture and Housing, where he is Chief Officer (Principal Secretary). As Supervisor of Elections, however, he will continue to attend at the Elections Office and liaise with Colford Scott, who will stay on.

The regular staff will be on hand: Ms Tosca Connor, office manager; Mr. Eldon Whittaker, senior assignment officer; and Mr. Rupert McCoy, training officer.

Mr. Whittaker said the issuing of voter ID cards continues, with a small team visiting businesses and government departments Mondays through Fridays. Most team members are staff from the vehicle Licensing Department, he noted, and they know how to use the equipment. They will visit churches upon invitation.

The next major drive to register eligible voters will start in November through to the end of December.

Mr. Gomez is scheduled to return full-time to the Elections Office around then.

Mr. Orrett Connor and Mr. Ernie Scott remain Deputy Supervisors.