A majority of the members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly formally approved the recommendations of the territory’s Electoral Boundary Commission on Wednesday.
Lawmakers voted 9-2 in favour of accepting the draft order relating to the boundary commission recommendations put forward by Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor. Corresponding changes to the Elections Law will have to be made in a bill that Premier McKeeva Bush said could come to the House as early as today [Friday].
The draft order adds two new MLA seats to George Town and one to Bodden Town. All other electoral districts retain their existing representatives and voting processes, although some changes will be made to voting locations to accommodate the additional seats. The order will affect the upcoming May 2013 elections, as it will take effect upon the dissolution of the sitting assembly in March.
“The allocation was based on trends in population with George Town having the greatest concentration of voters and Bodden Town having the fastest growth,” Mr. Bush said.
While he supported the motion to add new seats, Mr. Bush said he was concerned that having an even number of votes – going from 15 to 18 – had the potential to “deadlock” the legislature if votes end in a tie.
Also, Mr. Bush said he thought the new seats in George Town and Bodden Town had the potential to unbalance the assembly, potentially allowing any ruling government control as long as they won all 10 seats in those two districts.
North Side MLA Ezzard Miller, one of the leaders of the “one man, one vote” referendum movement in July, voted against the motion to approve the draft order, as did East End MLA Arden McLean.
“I have tried in several ways to encourage the government to implement single member constituencies, ‘one man, one vote’,” Mr. Miller said. “I do not agree with the choice the government has made.”
Mr. Miller said he would seek to amend the Elections Law when it comes to the House by changing wording in sections of the amendment bill. It is unlikely the amendment will pass as the “one man, one vote” concept is not supported by the ruling United Democratic Party government.
Opposition Leader Alden McLaughlin alleged that Mr. Bush had tried his best to add a fifth seat to West Bay, but failed. He also rejected the premier’s arguments that an even-numbered legislature would necessarily lead to deadlocks.
“Deadlocks can happen even if you have uneven numbers in the house [if members aren’t there],” Mr. McLaughlin said. “Although this is far from an ideal situation, I don’t believe that we have much choice but to agree.”
Mr. McLaughlin said he still believed the multimember constituent voting system is inherently unfair and should be changed. However, he welcomed the addition of two new government minister positions – going from five to seven – to help elected officials deal with the workload.
Mr. Bush accused Mr. McLaughlin of paying lip service to “one man, one vote” while not supporting it in actual fact. It was a charge the opposition leader denied.
“He did not want it or he would have put it through,” Mr. Bush said. “He had the members to do it [referring to negotiations on the 2009 Constitution], so why it’s not there?”
“He cannot get in this House … and tell the country untruths,” Mr. McLaughlin responded to Mr. Bush.
“The truth is that he let down the committee for ‘one man, one vote’,” Mr. Bush said. “He did nothing and he hung them out to dry.”