No electoral boundaries decision yet

Plans to introduce two new electoral seats in George Town and one in Bodden Town have been delayed after a debate on Cayman’s electoral boundaries was deferred in the Legislative Assembly Monday.

The Electoral District Boundaries Order 2011 was tabled in the Legislative Assembly on Friday, 8 April, but a debate on it was rescheduled for Monday after it was found that an attached document 
outlining polling divisions in the six districts implied that 17 
constituencies were being enacted.

The issue was to be debated on Monday afternoon, but after legislators waited an hour and a half for the debate to begin after lunch, the House resumed and Mr. Bush announced that further amendments needed to be made to the wording of the attached schedule to the Order.

In response to a question from Leader of the Opposition Alden McLaughlin on why the matter would not be dealt with Monday as expected, Mr. Bush said: “There are still concerns to the schedule… in the current draft order and so, we don’t propose to take the motion today.”

The House was adjourned sine dei, which means it will resume at a later, unspecified date. Mr. Bush said he proposed to bring the motion for the Order at that time.

The Order proposes to introduce three new electoral seats, bringing the total number of elected legislators to 18 as required under the new constitution – two extra in George Town, which returns four Members of the Legislative Assembly, and one extra in Bodden Town, which now has three seats.

The proposed Order takes on board a recommendation of the Electoral Boundary Commission, which expands the number of seats in George Town and Bodden Town, but retains the existing boundaries.

In its report to the Legislative Assembly and the governor last year, the Commission pointed out that the majority of the public who attended its meetings in all the districts supported single-member constituencies with a one man, one vote system.

The Commission also outlined other alternatives to return three additional seats, including the establishment of 17 constituencies that feature 16 single-member districts with a two-member constituency for the Sister Islands, or adding a new district in the Prospect and Savannah region.

Under the existing electoral system, voters in multi-member constituencies get as many votes as correspond to the number of MLAs that can be elected in that district so, for example, voters in George Town have four votes, while voters get one vote in East End or North Side – each of which returns one MLA.

Opposition members and independent member for North Side Ezzard Miller had planned to oppose the motion to add more seats to George Town and Bodden Town.

Speaking after the meeting, Mr. McLaughlin said the People’s Progressive Movement party favoured the one man, one vote option and single member constituencies.

“The more seats we add to a particular electoral district, the more votes we give to voters in multi-member districts, the more inequitable the system becomes because those in East End and North Side who have only one vote have significantly less opportunity to influence who the government is and what the government stands for than the voter in George Town or Bodden Town or West Bay who will now have six, four and four votes. Each voter should have equal influence over the outcome of elections, so the system becomes more and more inequitable the more seats we add to the multi-member districts,” he said.

Mr. McLaughlin said if the People’s Progressive Movement party takes power in the 2010 election, it would take steps to introduce a one man, one vote system in the Cayman Islands early in its term.

“The core of democracy is how people are able to choose their democratically elected government and the fundamental principle is one man, one vote,” he said.