The success of the one man one vote campaign lay in a groundswell of grassroots support, its ultimate failure was down to political interference, say some of the original petitioners behind the movement.
A public ‘no campaign’ led by the government, made up at the time of United Democratic Party and now People’s National Alliance members and the timing and conditions of the referendum have been cited as the principal reasons the Cayman Islands does not have single member constituencies today.
Betty Ann Duty said the results of the referendum showed the public supported the concept.
“We feel the issue is still very much desired by the electorate.
“The referendum indicated very clearly the majority of votes were in favour of one man one vote.
“Things went off the rails because the UDP did not want it and set the bar to just over 50 per cent of the registered electorate voting in favour, as opposed to the majority of voter turnout on referendum day. “They then proceeded to not only call the referendum, but to spend the people’s money to campaign against it.”
She said the issue would likely pass a second referendum under different conditions.
“If it was raised again, but done fairly without the government fighting us, one man one vote would win, hands down.
“The PPM claims if they are elected they will put one man one vote into place. That remains to be seen.”
Johann Moxam, said the success of the campaign could not be attributed to any political party, although he cited the contribution of several figures now running for election.
He said independents like Ezzard Miller, Arden McLean and Bo Miller along with candidates now running with the Peoples Progressive Movement, including Alva Suckoo, Woody DaCosta, Marco Archer and Kenny Bryan and candidates endorsed by the Coalition for Cayman deserved credit for the part they had played.
But he questioned the roll of PPM leader Alden McLaughlin, saying his position had offered only tepid support after pressure from colleagues.
He added: “One man one vote, won support from five out of six districts based on the total number of voters who turned up to the vote on referendum day.
“We can only imagine what would have happened if the Opposition had engaged and fully supported the campaign by mobilising their voter base, especially on Referendum Day.
“Any success of the campaign can best be described as the awareness the campaign and referendum brought to the concept of much needed electoral reform and the “inequality” of the current voting system that is designed to primarily benefit political parties.
“I am particularly proud that a group of average Caymanians worked together and took on a task that one could reasonably have expected elected MLA’s and their respective political machinery to champion in the name equality and enhanced accountability.”
He said the UDP’s campaign against electoral reform had been influential.
“Sadly, the UDP hijacked the referendum and set difficult thresholds for the voting public to reach, which for them was a shrewd political move because they knew they needed to control the process.
“They then commenced an anti-OMOV campaign, which was shocking considering they brought it forward and set the referendum question.”
Some of the campaigners believe that their efforts, despite the failure at the ballot box, will mean one man one vote is in place in time for the 2017 election.
Andre Ebanks said the group had succeeded in putting the issue at the forefront of the public debate and the next government would likely introduce the necessary changes to make it happen.
He added: “A committee consisting predominantly of nonpolitical ordinary citizens mustered an incredible movement that produced outstanding results when one considers the size of our committee, the amount of funds at our disposal and the obstacles we faced.
“And we did it purely because we believed it was the right thing to do as the country deserved a fairer voting system.
“It was a movement that was carried out with grace, intelligence and fortitude, which had such a material positive impact on the country that I think the next government, whomever that may be, will find it extremely difficult to resist the implementation of one man one vote.”
Bo Miler is not so sure. He believes the leadership of both main parties don’t want to see electoral reform.
Mr. Miller, who was chair of the campaign group for seven months prior to Referendum Day, said neither political party had shown enough support, because it was against their interests.
He added: “The Cayman people want one man one vote. If I’m elected it will be the first thing I try to do.”