Final results could be known shortly after sunrise on Thursday
For elections and referendums in Cayman, paper ballots are marked by hand, so no instant results will be obtained by pressing a computer key to find out who won in Wednesday’s General Elections.
But the process by which ballots are counted is clearly set out in the Elections Law, the returning officers who do the counting are experienced people who understand their responsibility, and candidates or their agents are allowed to keep tally as they watch the counting process.
In fact, if no candidate or agent applied to attend, the returning officer would be obligated to find two voters to be present for the count.
Election officials were conservative this week in their estimates of when results could be expected, since there is always the possibility of some unexpected situation arising. But they have studied past elections, trained several hundred election workers and planned numerous scenarios.
Polls close at 6pm and the ballot count should start at 7pm. However, if there are voters waiting in line at 6pm at a particular polling station, they will be allowed to cast their ballot. The poll clerks and presiding officer for that station will still need time to finalise their records and account for used, unused and spoiled ballots, so the start of their count could be delayed.
Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott pointed out that the length of time it takes to count ballots depends on the number of voters or electors in each district, the number of candidates in that district and the number of votes each elector has. The number of votes each elector has depends on the number of seats the district has in the Legislative Assembly.
Mr. Scott said he had discussed the time estimates with fellow deputies Orrett Connor and Ernie Scott and Supervisor of Elections Kearney Gomez. Logically, they expect first results from the districts with the smallest number of registered voters and candidates.
North Side has 599 voters and two candidates. East End has 641 voters and two candidates. Each of these districts returns one member to the Legislative Assembly. Results are expected around 9pm.
The electoral district of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman has 1,041 voters and four candidates. This district has two seats in the Legislative Assembly. Results are expected around 10pm.
In Bodden Town and West Bay, the results could be known around 2am. Each district has four seats in the Assembly. West Bay has 4,220 voters choosing from among 14 candidates. Bodden Town has 4,550 voters and 13 candidates.
George Town is the biggest district. It has the most voters – 7,441; the most seats in Assembly – six; and the most candidates – 21; so it will come as no surprise if the results for this district are known last. Hopefully, Mr. Scott said, the results will be finalised around 6am.
The number of postal ballots to be counted also affects the amount of time required because each one will have been returned in a small envelope inside the larger mailing envelope that will also include an declaration of identity. The returning officer must check that the declaration has been completed, signed and witnessed. But if a candidate or agent has witnessed it, it will not be valid. That means consulting a list of 56 candidates and approximately 650 agents to be sure.
George Town again has the most, with 305 postal ballots sent out. Bodden Town sent 129 postal ballots, while West Bay had 127. In Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, 19 voters requested postal ballots; nine in East End; and six in North Side. It will not be known until 6pm on 22 May how many postal ballots were returned.
Mr. Scott said postal ballots are traditionally sorted first because it is a tiring process. Those that have valid declarations of identity will be placed in a receptacle still folded as they were received. They are not counted when taken out of their envelope because handling of the declaration and ballot at the same time could disclose the way the person voted.
While the returning officer in each of the three larger districts sorts postal ballots, deputy returning officers deal with the ballots cast that day at the district’s polling divisions. Therefore, George Town could finish counting postal ballots around midnight, but meanwhile other counting sub-stations in the district may have sent in the results from one or two polling stations.
Those results go to the Elections Command Centre, which in turn notifies the media.
For the actual counting, the returning officer or deputy takes a ballot out of the ballot box one at a time. He slowly shows it to the poll or tally clerks and candidates or their agents. He then announces the name or names of the candidate(s) for whom the voter has marked an X.
If the voter has made a check mark or tick instead, it will still count because it clearly shows what the voter intended.
If someone marks XX or XXX for one candidate, they will count only as one vote.
If someone votes for fewer candidates than he or she is entitled to, the votes will count.
If someone votes for more candidates than they are entitled to, the ballot will be rejected. If the ballot is blank, it will be rejected. If it is signed, it will also be rejected.
If an “X” crosses the space of one candidate into another space, the returning officer will look for the point at which the lines of the “X” intersect.
The returning officer then places the counted ballot into a large envelope. Rejected ballots go into a separate envelope. A candidate or agent may ask to see the ballot again, but may not handle the ballot.
If anyone objects to the way the ballot is interpreted, the returning officer or deputy must record that objection but his word is final, subject to reversal on petition to the Grand Court. Any objection is numbered and the same number is placed on the back of the questioned ballot, for future reference if need be.
Any candidate or agent may, if not satisfied with the accuracy of the count for a ballot box, demand a recount on completion of the count of that box.
While the counting is going on, people may not congregate within 100 yards of any counting station.
When the deputy returning officers in the three larger districts have completed their counts, they proceed to their district main station and report to their returning officer. The three smaller districts have just one counting station.
In all districts, it is the returning officer who collates ballot box sub-totals and announces the successful candidates.
The main counting stations and returning officers are:
West Bay, John A. Cumber Primary School Hall, 44 Fountain Road, Delano Solomon.
George Town, Family Life Centre, 49B Academy Road, Philip A. Barnes.
Bodden Town, James M. Bodden Civic Centre, 445C Bodden Town Road, Edward (Ned) Solomon.
North Side, Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre, 923 North Side Road, Jennifer Kaufman.
East End, William A. McLaughlin Civic Centre, 80 John McLean Drive, Philip M. Jackson.
Cayman Brac & Little Cayman, Aston Rutty Civic Centre, 264 Ashton Reid Drive, Dave Tatum.
Deputy Supervisor of Elections Colford Scott pointed out that the length of time it takes to count ballots depends on the number of electors or voters in the district, the number of candidates in the district and the number of votes each elector has.