Not the time for OMOV

Letter to the Editor

Over the past several months there has been much discussion and debate in relation to one man one vote. I concluded that over the past several years, many people of the Cayman Islands have become disgruntled and unsatisfied with politics and the representation of our elected officials, and in some cases I have to agree with them. Some of our elected officials have not lived up to expectations. So it is understandable that persons would want a system or some form of change to get better representation. 

However, simply looking at OMOV from the view that it promises more accountability, equality and better representation, in my opinion, is misleading. Personally I do not like guns or use drugs, but I’d like to use two simple illustrations on them. Guns do not kill people, its people that use guns that kill. Drugs don’t destroy people’s lives, its people that manufacture and sell drugs that ruin people’s lives. Similarly, a system (OMOV) alone cannot promise better accountability or representation; it is the responsibility of an individual, a representative to provide great leadership. Now I am not saying that OMOV could not help facilitate this in some way, what I am saying is, a system alone is not the answer to our desire for better government representation. It is more so an individual mindset and work ethic that will accomplish this.  

After doing my own research, I found that some form of multi-member constituent/districts still exist in many democratic countries today. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (according to Wikipedia), which all have a slightly larger population than Cayman still use both MMD and single-member constituent. To me this signifies the system to use is unique to each country/district and we should not merely suggest that SMC works for us just because other countries use it.  

After deep thought on the matter, some of the areas that concern me the most about OMOV are as follows: 

Under SMC I feel we will get less representation. For example, if one constituent has 1,000 voters, let’s say Candidate No. 1 receives 300 votes, Candidate No. 2 receives 250 votes, Candidate No. 3 receives 225 votes and Candidate No. 4 receives 225 also. Candidate No. 1 would win by obtaining more votes individually. However, the 700 voters (70 per cent) that did not vote for Candidate No. 1 are somewhat un-represented. The other concern is 100-200 of those voters that Candidate No. 1 got could potentially be family and close friends. Remember, a representative is supposed to represent the majority; however, how can you truly represent the majority if only a handful of people elected you? MMD promotes a more diverse roster of candidates; you will more than likely have someone within the bunch that can relate to your needs and concerns and therefore represent you. There is a good deal of evidence to suggest that women are less likely to be elected under a SMC regime. Why would we want a system that puts women at a disadvantage of being elected? Especially knowing that a group of women in Cayman stood for their right in the 40s and 50s and demanded that they be allowed to vote and stand for election in Cayman. 

Under a SMC regime, boundaries would constantly have to change due to the change in population. We would find Bodden Town, the fastest growing district, constantly changing boundary lines each election or census, resulting in voters being moved from one constituent to another and causing confusion over polling locations. I have read several articles within the US where several states are having heated debates, even taking matters to court trying to decide how to divide boundary lines. In Hawaii last year, it was proposed to re-implement MMD and although it did not pass, it raised a concern that it has become problematic to constantly shuffle boundary lines. It should also be highlighted that SMC has proved in other parts of the world and potentially in Cayman, to become a political problem, as there will be politicians wanting to influence how the boundaries are divided. 

The Electoral Boundary Commission Report 2010 stated that “several” attendees to the meetings were concerned about the cost of the three additional MLA’s that would be implemented in 2013. On June 15th 2012, The Caymanian Compass also published a survey where persons were not in agreement of the three extra seats because of the additional cost. The EBCR and the survey showed that our people are concerned about the cost of public spending, which they should be. The cost of the three extra members should not be the only concern. We need to also consider the cost for implementing SMC; will a board or committee overseeing the electoral boundaries be compensated? What about the cost in having the boundaries redrawn every so often? This could potentially be an ongoing cost for the Cayman Islands as the population grows. Despite what others think, people WILL want certain amenities, such as parks, within their own constituents. I have seen signs of this first hand and residents WILL pressure their politicians to cater to them, which in turn will increase the cost of government.  

As we can see, our government is indebted over $600 M and finding it hard to balance our budget each year. Where there is an increase in services there are only two options you have, increase fees (taxes) or make cuts. The additional cost from SMC, whether it is from implementation, court disputes or constituent amenities will only make the cost of living more difficult and bring more pressure and hardship on the many families that are already struggling. The other option would be to cut jobs or cut services, which would only be more detrimental. I know some persons will feel there is no cost for true democracy. But to say we currently do not have real democracy is again misleading; Thank God we have the freedom to vote and we have seen governments changed in the last three elections. To me that shows the people have spoken and will continue to speak under MMD. 

I am at the realisation that time changes and so do things; however, I can confidently say that I do not support OMOV coming into effect for 2013, as I feel it will be a financial strain on the country and will potentially bring a number of issues. I would be more open to supporting it when our public finances are in better shape and we are more educated on it. We have to take our time to figure out exactly how it is going to work, be implemented and affect us. I have spoken to quite a bit of young people about OMOV and the sense I get is many are not educated about it. We need to do a proper informative campaign on OMOV and not shove it down people’s throats.  

I have said several times before, the party system is not the problem, nor is MMD the problem with our politics. The solution is we must elect better persons, individuals with strong character, persons who really understand what it is to serve, representatives who understand what accountability is and have high moral and ethical standards, persons who are great role models both publicly and privately, giving our citizens role models to look up to and aspire to follow. Cayman does have such candidates, but many of those persons shy away from politics.  

I truly feel there are genuine supporters of OMOV lobbying for its implementation; however, what concerns me and should also concern the people of the Cayman Islands the most, are those out there that are trying to push it through purely for political gain and their dislike for the current government and its leader, not taking into account the effects OMOV will have on the Cayman Islands financially and socially for years to come.  

We have several issues in Cayman that we need to address financially, socially, jobs and educating our people to name a few, but now is not the time for OMOV. I leave you with a partial statement from a letter that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia wrote to Members of Congress in 1995: 

“My bill would modify a 1967 statute that requires single-member districts in order to allow states to adopt multi-member districts for congressional elections using one of three modified at-large voting systems: limited voting, cumulative voting and preference voting. Modified at-large systems would promote fair representation for voters of all races, increase representation of women and increase voter participation and at the same time, avoid requiring states to face the high costs of drawing single-member district lines and handling legal challenges to plans.” 

 

Richard Christian  

President  

Young United Democratic Party 

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13 COMMENTS

  1. Mr Chistian is entitled to his view that Cayman needs to be better off financially and Caymanians need to be better educated on OMOV before it is considered.
    However, his disparaging comments in respect of the potential success of women in the election process and his suggestion of them being at a disadvantage of being elected under OMOV is certainly not supported by the current statistics on the number and percentage of female alected MP’s from the three largest Commonwealth countries in the Caribbean, all of whom practice OMOV, which are as follows:

    Trindad Tobago – 10 of 42 – 24%; Prime Minister – woman;
    Jamaica – 7 of 49 – 14%; Prime Minister – woman;
    Barbados – 4 of 30 – 14%; Prime Minister – man; and
    Cayman Is. – 1 of 15 – 7%; Premier – man.

    Donnie

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  2. Caymanian politics is broken, in many ways. It’s politicians are unaccountable, it’s public life is corrupt, and nepotism is rife. Government is seen and treated as mechanism for distributing favours, rather than delivering effective administration. There is indeed a problem of decent people shying away from seeking office, and people of dubious integrity and minimal competence being elected instead.

    Will OMOV solve all these problems? No, of course not, but it is a step along the road in the right direction.

    True reform in this country will only come when the electorate wakes up to the fact that the current tribal way of doing things, with its cronyism and petty corruption, is not in their long term interests, and elects an administration which is willing and able to promote the interests of the Cayman Islands as a whole.

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  3. The statistics posted by Donnie on women in politics may be accurate, but it would be a longshot to claim that this is due to OMOV. More women as elected politicians in those ecountries probably has more to do with the fact that more ran for election.

    Are we saying that more women would run for politics if we had OMOV? If the answer is yes, then what exactly is it about MMD that either stops women from running and/or prevents them getting elected?

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  4. Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados all have a low voter turnout. last election in barbados had 56% turnout!! we had 80%.

    Also these countries have 2 houses of parliament. For example in Trinidad there are 41 elected members and 31 appointed members to the Senate or Upper House.

    Under the OMOV system many good candidates do not get elected as only the Top 1 wins in each area. The senate allows good qualified people to be appointed and also serve as Ministers.

    I beleive we are making a mistake going to OMOV and especially so without the senate or appointed house.

    We seem to be grasping at straws in our attempt to get good governance. If we are not caeful we are going to make things worse.

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  5. Richard,
    These are a lot of bogus points in this article and they really not show the deep thought that you claim. The fact is that under MMCs people can be and the majority are presently elected with less than a majority of their constituency supporting them and it does not require the contrived numbers that you have presented. Elsewhere someone has pointed out that Capt. Eugene was elected with 35% of the vote in the 2000 elections, so being elected with the minority of the registered voters in your district has nothing to do with SMCs. However, once they are elected an MLA represents the entire constituency including those that did not support them and indeed whether they could vote or not. Unfortunately, the idea that you are only representing those that voted for you is one of the ills that afflicts Caymanian politics now. If you will be a candidate in the upcoming elections I trust that that will not be your stance.
    I do not know that there is any evidence that women are less likely to be elected in SMCs. The fact of the matter is that Mrs. Edna Moyle was elected 4 times from 1992-2009 in an SMC.
    Since you believe that the solution is that we must elect persons who have high moral and ethical standards, persons who are great role models both publicly and privately, giving our citizens role models to look up to and aspire to follow you should be rebuking and not supporting those in your party that do not live up to those ideals.

    Guernsey, Jersey and Isle of Man all have systems which are quite different from our present system which is in part due to their unique history. That really has nothing to do with the present debate. The fact remains that the SMCs are widespread throughout the democratic world including the UK, Canada, the U.S. and the former UK colonies in the Caribbean as well as our sister territory Bermuda which is comparable in size, population, economy and political status. None of them have found it to be a financial strain.

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  6. @bartlett deep
    I think Donnie was refuting the notion contained in Richard’s article that somehow SMCs disadvantaged the election of women to office.

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  7. Politicians on both sides and center are scared out of their wits to tell Caymanians the gospel truth about OMOV for fear of losing an election for doing so!

    Here’s what they’re not telling you:-

    A National Vote is the way to go! People who have lived or live where one man one vote system is implemented have horror stories to tell Caymanians about how Foreigners have taken over their electoral boundaries because they outnumber the locals and push them out of the state or even their own city where they were born or raised. Ezzard, nor Arden are in a position to push this dangerous OMOV down their throats. Neither is Austin nor Gilbert qualified to push it down your throat. The foreign journalists and the Chamber are on board because this is the non-Caymanians dream come through. Gordon Barlow that is famous for name calling Caymanians Stupid Idiots may indeed become the first Expat Premier if Caymanians are blindsided by Ezzard Arden and Wayne Panton on this dangerous voting system. You will regret it as you lose political power to Expats! On July 18, 2012 VOTE NO

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  8. Liverpool, a National Vote is good. But it would be better if in each district people vote for a candidate that has lived in their area and know them well. Hence, Single Member Constituencies are the better option. Moreover, a National Vote would mean rule by the majority which will more than likely disenfranchize Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.

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  9. @Liverpool
    Come on now. How many ex-pats actually have the right to vote? One in thirty maybe.
    And even if born in other countries, if they have lived in the Cayman Islands for enough years to actually have the right to vote are they still ex-pats or are they now Caymanians, as it says in their passports.

    Sadly it appears your view is that a person born of Caymanian parents, but who has lived most of their life overseas is somehow more Caymanian than someone born in the UK but who has lived here 50 years!

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  10. Liverpool is just appealing to xenophobia and irrational fears generally. Obviously an expat cannot vote and cannot run for office. The whole idea that OMOV will somehow enable them to take over the LA or the country is pure nonsense. Most people will see that but he is clearly counting on the fact that if he can convince even 100 people of this fallacy that could make the difference between the referendum passing or not passing.

    What has been most appalling about the anti-OMOV campaign is the willingness to stoop to any level, tell blatant untruths, attack people personally, impugn the motives of those in favour, and appeal to the baser instincts in human nature – greed, selfishness, xenophobia etc. If the present system were so great there would be no need to resort to these tactics. The plain simple truth pro and con would do. What it speaks to is a government that is desperate to hold on to power at any costs. Why else is it that no one other than the UDP sees it this way?

    As for the cry for a national vote, that is intended only as a distraction. Mark my words that should the referendum fail we will hear nothing more of a need for a national vote since that mantra will have succeeded in its purpose – the confusion of the voter against OMOV.

    It is obvious that a national vote for all MLAs is unworkable. It would mean overrepresentation for the three largest districts who could elect all of the MLAs and no representation for the smallest districts (NS, EE and CB/LC). It would mean that the elected officials would be even less accountable since they could with impunity ignore huge sections of the community. Further, as suggested by some, if this operates by giving each voter 18 votes it would lead to poor candidates being elected simply because they are from a populous district. It is simply not feasible for the voter to study say 36 candidates, their plans and policies, personal history, character and beliefs in order to determine which 18 to vote for. People are confused presently where they have 4 votes. One particular party has taken to giving them cards to ‘remind’ them who to vote for. The system would be exponentially worse with 18 votes. Votes would simply be wasted. Moreover such a voting process would require at least two voting days.

    The fact is that if you have but one vote you will regard it as precious and spend it wisely. If you have 4 or 6 the overabundance will likely mean that you are not nearly as careful as to how you cast the remaining 3 or 5, or worse, 17.

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