4,000 voter cards down, 10,000 to go

The Elections Office has issued more than 4,000 new voter identification cards and is on a mission to hand over more than 10,000 more.

The sight of mounted cameras and computers is becoming common at supermarket entrances and now at offices throughout the country as crews from the Elections Office visit businesses and stores to try to sign people up.

Since 12 May, the Elections Office teams have visited 217 establishments, including banks, trust companies, government agencies, private companies and churches.

Eldon Whittaker of the Elections Office said he hoped that new voters would take advantage of the accessibility and ease with which registration was now possible and sign up to vote, especially young people who have never voted before.

Much of the Elections Office’s equipment was badly damaged or destroyed in Hurricane Ivan, but it has now replaced the machinery and has four active mobile stations that can set up at any location.

During the week, crews visit businesses, at nights they set up at social functions, while on weekends they can be found at supermarkets on Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and at churches on Sundays.

‘We’re asking people that if they are shopping, to make time to stop by and get their ID cards. It only takes a short few minutes,’ Mr. Whittaker said.

So far, the teams have issued 4,180 new ID cards to replace the old election cards, which are now defunct. With a total of 14,154 people on the official electoral register, that means the crews need to reach another 9,974 voters, not including new voters.

‘We would like to boost that to at least 16,000 in time for the upcoming elections,’ Mr. Whittaker said.

‘We will cover every possible angle we can to ensure that everyone has ID cards by the time the election is held on 20 May,’ he said.

Mr. Whittaker added that there had been a good response from the churches and that many people were also signing up at the supermarkets, and he hopes local associations and organisations will avail of the Elections Office’s offers to attend functions where it can sign up more voters.

At a gathering at the Seafarers Association last week, 27 people replaced their old voter ID cards within two hours at a social at its clubhouse.

The team simply sets up a table with its equipment at the back of a room and attendees take a couple of minutes to pose for a photograph and fill out a form and they can be issued a new ID card on the spot.

Mr. Whittaker said a crew from the Elections Office also set up a station at the Chamber of Commerce Business and Technological Expo earlier this month.

‘Any groups that are having gatherings in the future who figure their members will be present, we will approach them with the view to issuing ID cards to them,’ Mr. Whittaker said.

Next, the Elections Office intends to target the Seventh Day Adventist Church which has a large congregation.

‘After that, we will go to the districts on Saturdays. Our crew will go every Saturday to ensure we get all the people in the districts,’ said Mr. Whittaker.

‘For those who are shut in and cannot come out, we will be visiting them in their homes. We are making a list and writing to them to know when we can do that. There has been a number of people who find it difficult to get to the supermarkets and to locations where we are issuing [ID cards] from.

‘We don’t want to have them feeling left out, like those in old people’s homes for example,’ he said.

All of the existing ID cards must be replaced with new ones, he said. The old ID cards will not be accepted at polling stations on election day and must be returned and exchanged. Those who do not have the new cards must present a passport instead.

‘The new cards will speed the process up,’ Mr. Whittaker said.

Staffing and training issues that affected how quickly and efficiently the Elections Office could register voters and issue ID cards were addressed by borrowing staff from the Vehicle Licensing Office, which uses identical equipment. Staff members from that office now work weekends to sign up electors.

Mr. Whittaker said the teams can issue 800 ID cards a month, but would like to boost that number to 1,400 a month. ‘We have a long way to go,’ he said.

On 1 November, the Elections Office will hold a Voter Registration Drive and intends to be active during Pirates Week to encourage young people to sign up.

Since the last voters registration drive in November last year, 163 new voters have been registered, according to Elections Office figures. In the previous registration drive, more than 900 new voters signed up.

Mr. Whittaker urged young people who have not previously registered to vote, to sign up and get their voter ID cards.

‘We would like to appeal to the young people to come out and vote,’ he said, adding that the team had visited UCCI previously and intended to return there.

He said the Elections Office was open to any suggestions from the public on where to visit to help sign up new voters or replace old ID voters’ cards as long as there are at least 15 people willing to sign up.

He said the easy access to registration and ID cards meant most people should have no excuse not to register to vote.

Mr. Whittaker reminded voters that they can only vote where they reside, so for example, people who may originally come from Cayman Brac, but who live in Grand Cayman, can only vote in the district in which they live in Grand Cayman.

To get more information on where to sign up for new voter identification cards or to register to vote, call 949 8047 or visit www.electionsoffice.ky.