By early Thursday morning, it appeared a referendum that aimed to change the Cayman Islands’ voting system would pass with a large majority of voters who participated.
However, despite the significant majority of Cayman Islands voters backing the ‘one man, one vote’ referendum question, the “yes” votes were not nearly enough to achieve the “magic number” of 7,582 needed to legally bind the government to enact the single member district voting system.
With all the votes counted, tallies were roughly 65 per cent saying “yes” to the referendum and supporting ‘one man, one vote’. Around 35 per cent of the voters said “no” to the question.
The only voting district to reject the referendum question was West Bay.
In George Town, 2,360 “yes” votes were recorded compared to 993 “no” votes: 70 per cent in favour of the referendum question.
In East End, 257 voters said “yes” and 79 said “no”; a 76 per cent majority in favour of the referendum.
In North Side, 335 voters said “yes” and 56 said “no” to the referendum; nearly an 86 per cent majority in favour.
In Cayman Brac, the vote was closer; 256 voters said “yes” and 203 voted “no”; a 56 per cent majority in favour of ‘one man, one vote’.
Results for West Bay that came in later in the evening had voters there narrowly rejecting the referendum question with 1,027 “yes” votes to 1,053 “no” votes. The ‘yes’ votes only got 49 per cent in West Bay.
In Bodden Town, there were 1,396 “yes” votes and 617 “no” votes; a 69 per cent majority for the ‘one man’ supporters.
While the voting results were encouraging for supporters of the referendum, the turnout on Wednesday’s balloting was not.
The final vote count was 8,677 votes cast in total, including postal and mobile ballots. That’s about a 57 per cent turnout.
There were 45 invalid or rejected ballots included in that total.
According to the elections office, 8,118 voters turned up at the polls between 7am and 6pm Wednesday. Added to that were 293 mobile voters and a few hundred postal ballots.
The number is significant for the referendum. It means that at least 7,582 people voted – the minimum number of “yes” votes or “no” votes that would have to be received for the ‘one man, one vote’ referendum to be binding on government. That number represents 50 per cent plus one of all eligible voters in the Cayman Islands.
However, with just more than 8,600 of 15,161 possible votes cast, either side of the issue would have had to obtain somewhere around 90 per cent favourable votes to win the day. Since they did not, the referendum will be considered only “advisory” to government.
In the end, the “yes” votes comprised only 37 per cent of registered voters in the Cayman Islands while “no” votes made up just 20 per cent of registered voters.
Premier McKeeva Bush, whose United Democratic Party government campaigned against the ‘one man, one vote’ referendum, told a crowd of about 50 people in George Town after the final results came in that “the results are binding, the referendum has failed”.
He said the constitution plainly stated that, to reach a majority, 50 per cent plus one of the total electorate would have to vote yes, and that had not happened. Therefore, even if the majority of people who cast ballots voted yes, according to the constitution, the no vote prevailed.
The premier added that the people of Cayman had “said clearly that this country has other more urgent and important national issues than single member constituencies”.
Mr. Bush later told reporters that his government would give no further consideration to the possibility of single member constituencies. “Why should we?” he asked.
He admitted that he would have liked to have seen more people vote no in the referendum, but said he had expected a low turnout all along.
While those who were helping to push one man one vote weren’t pleased with the results, they were happy about the number of ‘yes’ votes.
“I believe we have a clear indication now that the majority of people who are interested in the issued would prefer a system of single-member constituencies with one man, one vote,” said Opposition Leader Alden McLaughin. “I am very encouraged by the results in West Bay. It was almost even.
“If the system had been fair, if the referendum process as indicated by the Government had been fair, I have no doubt it would have been successful.
“If we were dealing with a situation that required more than 50 per cent of the votes cast, if we had a campaign that was fair and in which the Government had engaged in an education process rather than using the people’s money – public funds – in a campaign for the no vote, then we would have had a very different result.
“I am not encouraged by the turnout.
I am very encouraged by the results, particularly the results in West Bay, which is the stronghold of the UDP and has been for the last three elections.
“I think the electorate has been done a great injustice by the way the referendum process was structured and the campaign conducted.”
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller was happy with the large turnout in his district.
“I am grateful and satisfied that the good people of North Side came and exercised their democratic privilege. I am also pleased that such a large majority voted ‘yes’. I look forward to continuing to work with and for the people of North Side to improve our community and Cayman,” Mr. Miller said.
The Caymanian Compass contacted representatives of the One Man One Vote Committee for comment late Wednesday. Committee members indicated a statement was “being prepared”. The newspaper had received no statement from the group by press time.
Sister Islands District Commissioner Ernie Scott flew to Grand Cayman with ballots from those two Islands Wednesday
There are 959 registered voters on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; only 461 turned out to vote.
The vote, Mr. Scott said, was “Pretty much incident free.”
While it got off to a fairly slow start, voters began turning out in numbers between 8am and 8.30am.
“The turnout was very low,” he told Radio Cayman last night. “People just didn’t show.”
Counting of ballots began at 7.35pm Wednesday and was finished at 8.22pm.
Compass journalists Carol Winker, Norma Connolly, Patrick Brendel and Tammie C. Chisholm contributed to this story.