Cayman Islands Premier McKeeva Bush said Tuesday that the upcoming referendum on the ‘one person, one vote’ issue will require that a public holiday be called.
The date for that vote is now set for 18 July. Lawmakers are expected to approve a formal referendum bill in the Legislative Assembly on Thursday.
Mr. Bush said the logistics of holding the vote during a weekday required that a holiday be called.
“In order to have sufficient personnel to work in the polling process, people will have to be off from work,” Mr. Bush said.
The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service will use special constables – unpaid volunteer officers – to secure polling sites. Both public and private sector workers are being recruited as election officers and overseers, Mr. Bush said.
Supporters of the referendum seek to change Cayman’s current multi-member constituencies to single-member districts. The referendum would require nearly 8,000 “yes” votes to pass.
Mr. Bush said during an April broadcast address that the government decided, under section 69 of the Constitution, the question the public will vote “yes” or “no” upon come 18 July: “Do you support an electoral system of single-member constituencies with each elector being entitled to cast only one vote?”
“We are going on an education campaign to educate the people of this country and that question, or perhaps questions, will be made known as soon as possible, but definitely when we begin the campaign,” Mr. Bush told Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin during a Legislative Assembly session last month.
Mr. McLaughlin said opposition party members would attend the Thursday LA meeting and claimed earlier in the week that the referendum vote had been “hijacked”.
“There is a problem with the question that is being proposed; there is a problem with … the percentage of votes necessary; there is a problem with the date being right in the middle of the summer holidays; there is a major problem with the government campaigning against its own referendum question and using public funds to do so,” Mr. McLaughlin told attendees at a political meeting in Savannah on Tuesday.
The premier said the proposal for single-member districts was merely a political effort by members of the opposition political party.
“There is no high-minded academic principle behind their arguments for changing the voting system,” Mr. Bush said. “It is political opportunism, pure and simple.”
North Side Member of the Legislative Assembly Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean formally launched a petition in February seeking to gain the required number of signatures that would force government to hold a referendum on the question.
Currently, all Cayman Islands voting districts – aside from East End and North Side – require voters to cast anywhere from two to four separate votes, depending on how many representatives they send to the assembly.
Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean argue this is unfair, because it allows some voters to cast multiple ballots, while their constituents may cast just one. They also believe the change will lead to greater accountability among elected officials.
“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. The new electoral boundaries that have been approved by Cabinet would place six MLA seats in George Town, four in West Bay, four in Bodden Town and two in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
“[George Towners] would have six opportunities to vote, where the people in East End and North Side would just have one,” Mr. Miller said.
Mr. 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.”