Five prisoners from Her Majesty’s Prison at Northward were bused to polling locations around Grand Cayman on Wednesday, despite issues with dozens of others not being able to cast ballots.
Under the 2009 Constitution, remand prisoners and those convicted of lesser offences are eligible to vote as long as they are registered properly.
According to prisons Deputy Director Aduke Natalie Joseph-Caesar, two of the prisoners voted in East End, one in George Town, one in West Bay and one in Bodden Town.
Ms Joseph-Caesar said earlier this year that about 50 prisoners at Northward were estimated to be eligible for the balloting, but most were not able to register in time.
A prisons news release sent out Wednesday identified the following prisoners as voters: Michael Hugh Powell, Shane Edward Connor, Charron Dean-Owen Whittaker, Leighton Griffin Rankine, Jr. and Neil Jeffrey Powery.
Northward prison officials said 43 remand prisoners – meaning those who have been arrested and charged, but not convicted and sentenced – were eligible to vote. Another five or six prisoners who have been convicted of lesser offences were also eligible to cast ballots.
However, due to timing and scheduling issues, the prison service was unable to get those men on the electoral register prior to the close of voter registration.
“We didn’t register before the deadline, but how were we supposed to do that?” said inmate Murphy Powell, one of the newly-chosen members of the Inmates Council for Northward and Fairbanks women’s prison.
Powell, serving a four-year sentence following conviction in 2011 for wrongfully confining a woman in his pick-up truck, would not be eligible himself to vote in the general election.
However, Powell said about six or seven other guys in his cell wing might have taken the opportunity.
The problem is requirements that prospective electors must present a birth certificate to the Elections Office will have precluded most inmates, who are confined 24/7, and may not have access to things like a birth certificate or passport.
“Some of these men didn’t even have birth certificates or have never gotten a Cayman Islands passport,” Ms Joseph-Caesar said. “It’s unfortunate. This would have been a good project for the Inmates Council to work on, helping educate the prisoners on the issues and encouraging them to vote.”
It may come as a surprise to some, but the 2009 Constitution Order in section 91 makes clear the rights of Caymanian prisoners with regard to casting ballots in the general election. Obviously, prisoners who are not Caymanian wouldn’t be able to vote just as free residents who are non-Caymanian can’t vote.
Section 91 states: “A person shall not be entitled to be registered as an elector in any electoral district who … is serving a sentence of imprisonment (by whatever name called) exceeding 12 months imposed on him or her by a court in any country …”
Potential Cayman Islands voters are also disqualified if they are convicted of violating Cayman Islands Elections Law.
Otherwise, Caymanians who are at least 18 years old, who are resident in the islands at the voter registration date and who have been resident in the islands for two of the last four years immediately preceding their registration date are all qualified to cast ballots.