Caymanians haven’t even voted yet, and already it appears there’s some dispute over the ballot count in the upcoming constitutional referendum.
Lawmakers said Friday that it’s likely some changes will be needed in the Referendum Bill approved by Legislative Assembly last week, amid concern about how votes in Cayman’s 20 May referendum will be counted,
Cayman Islands elections officials had previously said that votes in the constitutional referendum, believed to be the first in the country’s history, would be counted only on a national basis. In other words, district-by-district voting results for the referendum would not be available.
District results for the general elections, being held on the same date, would be made available as usual since those ballots are not considered part of an election.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush raised concerns about the lack of district voting results during a committee debate on the Referendum Bill.
‘The one thing we have a lack of in the country is statistics,’ Mr. Bush told the committee. ‘That would be an important statistic. I’m sure the district of West Bay would want to know how they voted.’
During the committee debate, Deputy Elections Supervisor Colford Scott said ballots for the general elections and the constitutional referendum would be conducted separately. Voters would likely have to go into one area to vote for their elected representatives and another to vote in the referendum.
Mr. Bush said he was afraid some voters, after casting their general election ballots, might not continue on to vote in the referendum. He said he didn’t want the new draft constitution to fail on that basis.
On Friday, Leader of Government Business Kurt Tibbetts told the Caymanian Compass that the mechanics of how the referendum vote will be handled are still being worked out and could be altered, if necessary, following consultation with the Elections Office.
However, he said changing the vote counts from a national tally to the districts is likely to require an amendment to the recently approved Referendum (Constitutional Modernisation) Bill, 2009.
‘It was originally envisaged as a national vote…but some members are keen for statistical records,’ Mr. Tibbetts said. ‘It would require a short amendment (to change the language in the referendum law). It wouldn’t change anything else in the law.’
The success or failure of the referendum will still depend on the vote count across the country. The referendum must receive a simple majority of 50 per cent plus one vote of those participating.
If one district votes against the referendum, but there still are enough votes in the entire country to pass it, the draft constitution would still become the law of the land.
Mr. Bush said there was no reason not to provide the district-by-district vote results.
‘Somebody’s going to have that powerful information,’ Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush was supported in his calls for district-by-district vote results by government back bench MLA Osbourne Bodden and Speaker of the House Edna Moyle.
‘If it is that somebody has (the constitutional referendum results by district), then I think we should be told,’ Mr. Bodden said.
If lawmakers are to take up the change in the Referendum Bill it is likely to be done during a busy end-of-year Legislative Assembly session tentatively scheduled for next week.
Mr. Tibbetts said the LA is expected to consider the newly proposed Children’s Law, along with changes in the country’s Adoption Law, and the introduction of a completely revamped Education Law. The Education Law has been in the drafting stages for more than three years.
No mention was made Friday about other bills long in the queue at the LA, including the National Conservation Bill, the Police Bill, and the revised Customs Tariff Bill.
The house adjourned temporarily on Friday, with a goal of resuming the meeting the week of 9 March to consider the remainder of the items. The LA is set to be dissolved ahead of the general election nomination date on 25 March. All current business would have to be completed by 24 March.