Gov pushes campaign reform, early voting

Cayman Islands Governor Stuart Jack has indicated he would like the local government to change campaign finance reporting requirements before the next general election occurs, even if he won’t be around by then.

gov push

Governor Stuart Jack 

‘Election campaigns obviously cost money,’ Mr. Jack wrote on his blog site following the 20 May voting. ‘But I believe that elections should not be unfairly influenced by money.’

Campaign finance rules in Cayman are quite strict for the roughly six week period in the run up to the election. However, before that time candidates are subject to few requirements as to what they can spend and what they have to report. Political parties have virtually no restrictions whatsoever under the Elections Law (2004 Revision).

‘The electorate in the Cayman Islands should have a right to know where political parties and candidates get their funding from and how they use it, not only during the few weeks of the campaign but at other times as well,’ the governor wrote.

The governor pointed out that, in Cayman, election dates are known up to a year in advance.

The Elections Law does provide an expenditure limit which candidates must stay within.

But that limit only applies to candidates from the time they receive official nomination to the day of the general election, usually about six weeks. Candidates belonging to political parties can legally spend only $30,000 within that time; independent candidates may spend up to $35,000 between their nomination and Election Day.

All candidates are required to report the total amount of their expenditures within that time period to the Elections Office. Those records are kept on file for a year after the votes are counted.

Any candidate accepting a donation greater than $5,000 must identify the source of that donation to the elections’ supervisor. The name and address of any person who contributes more than $10,000 to a candidate or party must also be given to the supervisor’s office.

Elections Supervisor Kearney Gomez keeps a summary of candidates’ campaign reports in the elections office and those summaries may be reviewed by the public. However, the initial report submitted by each individual candidate is not released.

Also, candidates and parties are not required to document any donations or expenditures which occur outside of the nomination period. In other words, if someone receives or spends $200,000 on a campaign prior to their official nomination as a candidate, that would not violate spending limits.

‘(This is) one issue that, in my personal view, needs a look before the next election,’ the governor wrote.

Mr. Jack’s term in office will expire in November. His successor, Duncan Taylor, is due to take up the governor’s post at the start of 2010.

Governor Jack also urged the Caymanian government to start looking into advance voting – also known as early voting. Early voting gives citizens a number of days, sometimes weeks, in which to vote before the date of the general election.

To a small extent, Cayman used an early voting scheme – mobile polling – that allowed elderly or infirm voters to cast ballots before the actual date of the election.

Provided there were adequate checks and balances in place, Governor Jack said an advance voting system could work in Cayman.

‘The aim should be to encourage as many electors to take part as possible,’ he wrote.

Voter turn out in the Cayman Islands general elections was approximately 80 per cent of the Islands’ 15,361 registered voters.

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