Premier joins debate on ‘one man, one vote’

The last time the Generation Now group held a debate – on the topic of immigration – Premier McKeeva Bush wasn’t there, although his administration’s position was represented by the head of Mr. Bush’s Immigration Review Team.  

At the next debate, set by the non-profit group for this Thursday, the Premier is scheduled to be in attendance, according to an announcement about the event. He’ll be joined by Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, Electoral Boundary Commission member Adrianne Webb and Richard Arch, who is listed as a “concerned citizen” on a pamphlet announcing the event.  

The topic for Thursday’s discussions will be ‘one man, one vote’, essentially asking 
panellists to consider whether the country should stay with its current multi-member, multi-vote elector system; or if Cayman should instead be divided into 18 separate voting districts from which each would send one person to the Legislative Assembly every four years.  

Right now, Cayman’s two largest districts – George Town and West Bay – send four candidates, and voters in those districts get to cast four separate ballots for the people they support. Bodden Town voters send three LA representatives, Sister Islands voters get two, and one MLA apiece go to East End and North Side.  

The will change in 2013, the first general election held under the new Cayman Islands Constitution. George Town will grow to six representatives and Bodden Town to four. All other districts are expected to remain the same.  

Mr. Bush’s position on the matter, as well as Mr. McLaughlin’s and Mr. Miller’s, is well known. Mr. Bush doesn’t support single member voting districts; Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Miller do. Mr. Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean are circulating a petition around the Islands asking for voters to sign up – hoping to force a referendum on the subject by November, prior to the country’s next general election in May 2013.  


Opposing views  

“The problem with the one man, one vote system is that it creates far too many expectations,” Mr. Bush told attendees at a meeting in East End last month. “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.” Supporters of the ‘one man, one vote’ measure have said the main issue is fairness, not expectations. They argue the current multi-member voting system 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,” Mr. 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 single member voting districts will 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 said in February 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 [East End] only has 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’re 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.” 


Why rush?  

Opposition Leader McLaughlin backs the ‘one man, one vote’ principle. He just doesn’t know why there needs to be a referendum in November – ahead of the general elections – to implement it.  

“The Constitution states that a simple change in the law is all that’s needed to create single-member constituencies,” Mr. McLaughlin said in February. “The PPM [People’s Progressive Movement] has promised that it will adopt ‘one man, one vote’ if it is put back in government. So why do we need a referendum on it six months before the general election?” 

The Legislative Assembly last year considered a private members’ motion to adopt the ‘one man, one vote’ principle. It was defeated on a party-line vote. Mr. Bush’s United Democratic Party does not support single-member districts. 

Mr. McLaughlin said there would be less than six months between 30 November and the general election in May 2013. Even though the 2010 Electoral Boundary Commission drew up and identified the 16 voting districts on Grand Cayman that would be used if the territory went to single member districts, Mr. McLaughlin said it would still be a matter of organising and educating voters as to where they needed to go and what ‘one man, one vote’ means.  

“I’m just not sure there’s enough time,” Mr. McLaughlin said. 

alden mclaughlin

Mr. McLaughlin

McKeeva Bush

Premier McKeeva Bush speaks at the Future of Cayman Forum presentation. – Photo: Patrick Brendel

Ezzard Miller

Mr. Miller


  1. MLA Arden Mclean is correct and his quote bears out the importance of why this must happen. The Leader of the PPM seems to be supporting this in a half hearted way that makes him look somewhat weak. The Premier wants to feather his nest at the expense of willful human rights violations by keeping in place the at large voting system and buying time. Signing the petition to move forward is a good thing for the country and its citizens. Only the narrowly focused will and has objected. Voters and citizens that care about the betterment of our country will support this worthy and just effort no matter what the critics say.

  2. Alden McLaughlin is just looking for re-election of himself and party crew.

    Ezzard Miller and Arden Mclean (who should not be a member of the PPM party), make sense in their analysis.

    McKeeva Bush has a point, but I think a system of too much expectations can always be prioritized to a few and most important expectations. Hence, there is really nothing detrimental in having a fair system.

    In addition to ONE PERSON ONE VOTE, I believe each district despite of their population should have the same number of representatives. In the United States for instance you have two senators per each state. It doesn’t matter if California has more people than Utah… each state must have two senators.

    In sum, I therefore support the ONE PERSON, ONE VOTE… and would like to see each district with only two representatives. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman should be divided into two electoral districts. One district will be the West End of Cayman Brac including Little Cayman, and the other electoral district should begin at Stake Bay to the Bluff and eastern part of the Island. So you will have two for the West side and LC, and two for the rest of Cayman Brac… equals 4 representatives. Altogether with all three islands, you should have 14 MLAs: 2 GT, 2 WB, 2 BT, 2 NS, 2 EE, 2 LC CB, and 2 CB – east / bluff.
    I think that and the one person one vote system, will be as fair as you can get.

    Our leaders should be doing more on promoting Caymans unity, because what ends up effecting the east of us, effects the west too. We are too small to be so divisive over how many representatives each district should get.

  3. Bodden, I think with your system, 2 for each district, would work well in our current multi-member, multi-vote elector system. Wouldnt need a one man one vote system.

  4. Mac was never going to attend. Rather he wanted those that only read the print edition to think he was going to. I hope your headline tomorrow reads Mac doesn’t attend important debate, instead gets on jet to leave Cayman!

    Editor’s note: The Premier’s office has now confirmed he will not attend. Cline Glidden, Jr. going in his stead. Look for story in Thursday’s paper.

  5. @ Bodden,

    With regards to your comment on the US Senators. The issue here is you are not electing the executive branch, you are electing the legislators, so you would be talking about the congress. In which case has a constituency centric electoral district based on population rather than area.

    As far as the Article goes…. Mr Bush is doesn’t understand the purpose of creating a Hamlets. Each Actual district or town should have an actual board or council. ALL of the elected members of the LA should be on their specific town council as well as a mayor, who heads it and is elected independently. The mayor would be responsible for the districts or town infrastructure and budgeting. The elected LA members would just be there to represent their constituents on a national level.

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