Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush last week reopened an old debate about whether the district of George Town has too much representation within the Caribbean territory’s Legislative Assembly.
However, the premier’s comments also created speculation among opposition party members and the local press that Mr. Bush was seeking to disregard recommendations of the Electoral Boundary Commission and put an additional elected representative post in West Bay – his home district in Grand Cayman.
In statements made to the Caymanian Compass, Mr. Bush said no such thing. Rather, he noted his concern is not that West Bay may have too few seats, but that George Town may have too many.
The new districts, created under the 2009 Constitution Order, add three more elected members to the Legislative Assembly for a total of 18. Under the current plan, the 2013 elections would be contested for six seats in George Town, four apiece in West Bay and Bodden Town, two in the Sister Islands and one apiece in East End and North Side. Right now, Cayman’s electoral districts send 15 members to the LA.
“It was Ezzard Miller and Arden McLean who said that George Town should not get six seats, as have many, many other people who have said the same thing to me,” Mr. Bush said. “Giving six seats to one district does concern me, too. Six members is one-third of the house and one-third of the entire membership is far too much power vested in one district.
“It must be considered beyond how many voters [are] in that particular district,” he said.
Opposition members have said the premier intends to add a fifth seat in West Bay, taking one away from George Town. According to January estimates, West Bay has some 250 more voters than Bodden Town. Bodden Town is also Grand Cayman’s fastest-growing district.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin said Thursday that the premier may have made the “most compelling case for single member constituencies” in his recent statement to the Caymanian Compass. Single-member voting districts – more commonly referred to as the ‘one man, one vote’ concept – is supported by the opposition People’s Progressive Movement, as well as North Side MLA Ezzard Miller.
“[The premier] should stop talking out of both sides of his mouth and amend the Elections Law immediately to convert to single member constituencies,” Mr. McLaughlin said. “If that is done now, there will be adequate time for all the preparations to be made in time for the next elections in May .”
Mr. McLaughlin has said, while he supports a petition circulating the Islands seeking to hold a referendum on the ‘one man, one vote’ concept, he doubts there would be enough time to affect that change if that public vote is held in November – as petitioners have proposed. However, if the government should agree to make the change now, that’s a different story, he said.
In no case should any electoral seats be taken away from George Town, said Mr. McLaughlin, who represents the district in the assembly.
“What cannot be justified is giving West Bay, which by the next elections will have [fewer] voters than Bodden Town, five seats and that West Bay should have the same number of seats as George Town,” he said.
According to January estimates, George Town has around 5,900 registered voters while West Bay has about 3,700.