Updated 4.30pm Tuesday: The Cayman Islands Elections Office confirmed late Tuesday that a Bodden Town political candidate had been disqualified from the 22 May general election.
According to a statement released Tuesday afternoon: “The returning officer for the electoral district of Bodden Town, Mr. Edward Solomon, has concluded that Bodden Town candidate Richard Christian is not qualified to be a member of the Legislative Assembly pursuant to section 62 (1) of the Constitution.
“Accordingly, his name will not appear on the elections ballot for the district of Bodden Town.”
It seems the Cayman Islands will have exactly as many candidates contesting the May general election as it did in the year 2000, when 57 people sought elected office.
According to Elections Office officials, an announcement will be made later today [Tuesday] concerning a Bodden Town district candidate’s eligibility to stand for election.
If that candidate is disqualified, it will bring the 2013 general election total to 57 candidates vying for office. It would also mean a second candidate leaving the race early in the district of Bodden Town after independent hopeful Kent McTaggart withdrew just before nomination day due to potential difficulties meeting eligibility requirements.
The candidate in question said over the weekend that his attorney was looking at the issue – which apparently has to do with his possession of a US passport – and that he hoped to announce his decision shortly.
A disqualification would bring the total number of candidates for the upcoming election to 21 in George Town, 14 in West Bay, 13 in Bodden Town, five in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman and two apiece in North Side and East End.
In 2000 – which is thought to have seen the largest number of candidates running under the current voting system prior to this year – there were 14 candidates in George Town, 22 in West Bay, 10 in Bodden Town, six in the Sister Islands, three in East End and two in North Side.
The 22 candidates in West Bay during the 2000 general election is still believed to be the largest number of would-be lawmakers contesting any one voting district under the current multimember constituency, first-past-the-post election system Cayman has used in the modern era. Also, it is worth noting that there were only 15 elected seats available during the 2000 election, while 2013 sees candidates vying for 18 seats – so the number of candidates seeking each seat in the Legislative Assembly is actually lower.
Election cycles bring change with the years and only 19 of the candidates who stood for office during the 2000 vote are still seeking office this year. Ten of the 19 who ran in 2000 are incumbents in their respective offices.
The issue of US passport ownership and US citizenship have been raised previously in Cayman Islands elections – most recently with George Town independent candidate Sharon Roulstone. Ms Roulstone surrendered her US passport on 31 January.
Ms Roulstone has lived in the Cayman Islands her entire life. She was born here, the child of an American father and a Caymanian mother. Aside from a one-year stint away in Texas when she was a child and a year of college in Virginia, she has never lived abroad.
According to US law, any child born to an American parent anywhere in the world can automatically apply to receive American citizenship and Ms Roulstone was granted US citizenship in that manner. However, being born in the Cayman Islands added another wrinkle for her 2013 general election candidacy.
Section 61(2)(b) of the Constitution qualifies a person for elected membership in the Legislative Assembly if that person has a close family connection with the Cayman Islands and is a British Overseas Territories citizen. According to the section, the person can qualify to stand for election if they were born outside the Cayman Islands, had at least one parent or grandparent born in the Cayman Islands and who is Caymanian and “who at the date of his her nomination for election possesses no other citizenship save for any right he or she may have to some other citizenship by virtue of his or her birth outside the Cayman Islands”.
So, Ms Roulstone, having been born in the Cayman Islands, could not keep her US passport and citizenship and run for local office, while someone else who was born outside Cayman but with the requisite family connections, could maintain that citizenship.
One such individual is her older sister, who was born abroad and who at one point had to get a work permit and eventually be granted Caymanian status via application. Yet, Ms Roulstone said her sister could run for office while keeping her US citizenship and she cannot.