Despite Premier McKeeva Bush’s travels to the United Kingdom, it appears Cayman Islands lawmakers will be just in time to change the territory’s Elections Law ahead of the May 2013 general election.
According to opposition party members, legislators will be recalled to the assembly on 10 December – just two days before the deadline for Cayman Islands Governor Duncan Taylor to issue the writs of election – a procedural step required by elections rules.
Before then, lawmakers must vote to officially change the number of legislative assembly seats in George Town district from four to six and in Bodden Town district from three to four.
“The governor is aware that he cannot issue the writs of election until a minor amendment has been made to the Elections Law,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “The governor understands that the Legislative Assembly will be reconvened on 10 December in order for this change to be passed.”
A majority of the members of the Cayman Islands Legislative Assembly recently approved the recommendations of the territory’s Electoral Boundary Commission in a 9-2 vote.
However, that vote must be accompanied by corresponding changes to the Elections Law.
The draft order adds two new legislative assembly 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 presiding 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.