The 2010 Cayman Islands Electoral Boundary Commission looked at the advantages and disadvantages of both the current multi-member voting system and the proposed single-member constituencies when it issued its report.
The major appeal of single-member voting districts, according to the commission, is that they provide a clear path to voter representation; put bluntly, the voters know who to go to if there’s a problem.
“They facilitate voters with a readily identifiable representative to whom concerns can be addressed,” the boundary commission wrote. “They maximise accountability.’
The single member districts must be redrawn from time to time to maintain populations of relatively equal size, the commission noted. They also ensure geographic representation, but do not necessarily set up “clearly identifiable communities”, according to commission members. “The entities [districts] may have no particular relevance to citizens,” the commission’s report noted.
Proportional representation can also be a problem with single-member districts, the commission reported.
“They often do not produce proportional representation for political parties because of their tendency to over-represent the majority party and under-represent the other party,” the report noted.
Multi-member voting districts do tend to present more recognisable “communities of interest”, according to the commission. They also do not need to change boundary lines when population numbers increase or decrease because the system will simply add or subtract representatives accordingly.
“In a scenario of achieving proportional representation, they are preferred, although not all multi-member district systems produce proportional representation for political parties,” the commission opined. “They tend to produce more balanced representation by encouraging the nomination of a diverse roster of candidates.”
However, multi-member constituencies also tend to “dilute” relationships between voters and their elected representatives, “blurring the lines” of accountability for individual representatives.
In the context of the Cayman Islands, the boundary commission stated, single-member districts could be considered in the context of fairness. “The present voting structure confers different amounts of votes on a voter, for example, each voter in East End and North Side has only one vote [opportunity] to influence government,” the commission wrote. “A voter in the Sister Islands has two votes to influence government as the number of members, which the respective districts return to the Legislative Assembly.”