Equal voting rights for everyone

Editor’s Note: The following letter to the editor ran in the 7 June, 2002, edition of the Caymanian Compass. The author has asked that it be reprinted as it has bearing today.

The constitutional debate appears to have been whittled down to a handful of core issues. One of these is described as the “one man one vote” issue. This is misleading and instead should be described as “equal voting rights for each voter”.

The current electorial system is flawed, in that depending on which district you live in you may have greater or lesser voting rights. However, I do not think that dissecting the Islands into 17 segments is the answer. Whilst this will result in equal voting rights, there are significant disadvantages. One disadvantage will be that each representative will owe his or her position to a small body of persons, such that each representative will be trying to press for special projects so that at election time he has something to show this small body and say “look what I have done for you”.

On an Island-wide basis, this would evolve into an elaborate system of vote swapping for each others’ special projects. This approach runs contrary to applying our very limited resources for the benefit of the Islands as a whole, as well as formulating and implementing policies that affect all of us, particularly in the long term. Cayman is a small place and we have to keep this in mind when looking to larger countries, for example.

In most of those countries, the Islands would be swallowed up many times in the equivalent of one of their “districts”, for which there would be one representative.

In looking at alternatives, the guiding principals should be simplicity and efficiency. My own view is that 15 representatives and one house are sufficient. You could have all 15 elected by all voters, but there are issues within the traditional districts, which need specific representations. My suggestion would be for there to be seven districts of approximately equal numbers with the exception of the Sister Islands, which would comprise one district. Each district could return one representative. The remaining majority of eight representatives would be elected by all voters. As a result, each voter would have equal voting rights, a right to return a “District Representative” and eight “Island Representatives”.

There may be other better suggestions. The purpose of this letter is to highlight that the issue is not the current system versus that proposed in the new draft constitution. It involves moving from the current system to one in where all voters have equal rights and which is suitable for these Islands.

James Bergstrom

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