In a public meeting that sounded a lot like a political rally ahead of the May 2013 general elections, Premier McKeeva Bush told a group of East End residents his government would call a referendum on the ‘one man, one vote’ issue.
But Mr. Bush won’t be voting for it.
“The problem with the one man, one vote system is that it creates far too many expectations,” Mr. Bush told attendees at Tuesday night’s meeting, called to provide an update on Cayman’s negotiations for a cruise ship berthing facility in George Town. “We complain now about the money government [has to] spend, but people are going to want amenities in their area.
“They’re going to want a park, they’re going to want a school, they’re going to want a post office, they’re going to want a library and they’re going to want a playing field for such games as football, cricket and basketball. That has been the experience in other areas. They say ‘oh, well, other Caribbean Islands got it, but that’s what the problem is.”
‘One man, one vote’ supporters want Cayman to switch from its current multi-member voting districts, where voters can cast as many as four ballots, to single-member districts. According the district boundary map created by the Electoral Boundary Commission, there would be 16 districts in Grand Cayman and two in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
If the general election was held now, according to the 2009 Constitution, there would be six districts. George Town, the most populous, would send six representatives to the Legislative Assembly. West Bay and Bodden Town would vote in four apiece, the Sister Islands would send two MLAs and East End and North Side one apiece.
Proponents of single member districts argue this is unfair.
“The people of George Town, who each have four representatives with a rather peculiar current arrangement, where each political party has two of the four representatives and each can duck and weave from their responsibilities,” North Side MLA Ezzard Miller said during the launch of the ‘one man, one vote’ petition in February. “[Under the new districts George Towners] would have six opportunities to vote, where the people in East End and North Side would just have one.”
East End MLA Arden McLean said the proposal would eventually lead to better, more responsive governance.
“We have a responsibility to enlighten this country on the value of single-member constituency,” Mr. McLean said. “Every vote counts. Democracy does not flourish in the absence of equality and this is one component of that equality.”
Mr. Bush told East End residents Tuesday night that the discrepancy in the number of votes exists simply because of each district’s population.
“[West Bay has] more people,” he said to the crowd. “That’s why you only have one [MLA], because you only have 500 voters. It’s not that you’re being treated worse than anybody.”
The premier said he doesn’t buy arguments the system will make elected officials more accountable; in fact, he said it would make them less so.
“In my district and George Town, a person can now go to four different representatives … to get help,” he said. “If a change comes in our voting system for one man, one vote, a representative … will stick to his own area. When you go to them, they will choose to say ‘I have my area, go to your representative’.”
He told the crowd he expected political manoeuvring was the chief concern of the ‘one man, one vote’ supporters.
“Some people in West Bay believe that if they split up West Bay they will get elected,” he said. “Well, they can chop it up into 100 pieces and they not going to get elected … the people already said no to them before. They can’t get rid of us like that, they talking nonsense.”