Editorial for 31 May: Sensible OMOV debate required

Our front page article Wednesday about the current plan for
“one man, one vote” via single member constituent districts has raised
important practical questions about the implementation of such a voting system
in the Cayman Islands.

These questions have never really been debated. Most
notably, the issue of whether Cayman is simply changing out one unequal voting
system for another one.

Again and again, we at this newspaper have cried out for a
sensible, non-politicised debate [realising that is difficult] on this issue of
how the country should elect its Legislative Assembly members. Up to this
point, the proponents of the “one man, one vote”, single member districts model
have tried to pretend there is only one option – the one presented by the 2010
Electoral Boundary Commission – that can save us all from the unfairness of the
existing multimember district system.

According to Commonwealth Parliamentary Association experts
who reviewed our voting system during the week of the general election, the
2010 proposal is unfair and well outside the international norms for equal or
relatively equal single district representation. However, to change what the
boundary commission has done would result in “doing violence to the current
electoral district boundaries”; so said Premier Alden McLaughlin, who supports
the “one man, one vote” plan.

Here we have another important question that we believe has
not been considered: How does the plan proposed by the 2010 boundary commission
not “do violence” to the existing districts already? George Town will be
chopped up into six pieces, Bodden Town and West Bay into four.

Yet somehow, with all this “violence” going on, we receive
the view that North Side, East End and the Sister Islands districts should be
untouched – in fact that the saviour of voting rights, “one man, one vote”,
should not be implemented in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman at all, even though
it’s the “best thing for the country”. More debate on this important issue is
sorely needed. We hope to hear what our new leaders have to say on the topic




  1. I couldn’t agree more. The Government needs to commission a study into all available options before making any changes. My preference is to do away with electoral districts all together and make it a national vote. Give everyone 3 votes and the 18 (12 would be better) candidates with the most votes get in. There really is no need to split up such a small country – I don’t buy the district representation argument at all, but if needs be districts could be allocated to the MLAs post-election.

  2. Editor – This issue has been debated ad nauseam. The OMOV Referendum was passed last year by a large majority of those voting, albeit not a majority of the entire electorate. The PPM, C4C and the two Independent MLAs who championed OMOV won the elections. The only party that rejected it was the UDP which was in turn rejected by the electorate. It is time that we move forward and simply implement OMOV.

  3. In response to Speaker, we believe there has been a lot of talk, but very little real debate. As we said, only two options have truly been presented, the current voting system which is unfair, and the 2010 Electoral Boundary Commission plan for single member districts which, by any observable international standard, is also unfair.

    ‘Simply implement OMOV’ is exactly the view that we believe is going to lead to another unfair voting system being implemented.

    If all districts should have relatively equal voting populations in order to be fair, as the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association has stated, how can we ‘simply implement OMOV’ as proposed?

    As we’ve said many times, we support one man, one vote, insofar as it acheives truly equal voting rights. We do not support gerrymandering.

  4. Too much analysis brings on paralysis:

    I totally disagree with the editorial on One Man One Vote as well as the experts. The editorial talks about the smaller districts but fails to point out the small numbers and that is very relevant. They also mix Apples with Oranges and it doesn’t work. The vote was overwhelming to pass ONE MAN ONE VOTE but we had a Leader that was against basic Human Rights for his own people him and his followers were swept from leadership. Now we have a dynamic new leader that is sensitive to the needs of all the people and he should not listen to hysterical writings or voices and do the right thing immediately. Too much analysis brings on paralysis and we don’t need that. The people have spoken and they can’t all be wrong.

  5. Editor – Delaying the matter by calls for real debate will only lead to more talk with some politicians throwing up unworkable ideas simply to confuse the public on the issue and lead to further inertia.

    What many people ignore is that the existing electoral districts are made up of a number of different communities. Hence, Prospect is not naturally a part of George Town, and Savannah/Newlands is not naturally a part of Bodden Town. Single member constituencies should have some regard to natural communities while attempting to maintain roughly equal numbers. Sometimes equal numbers are simply not possible. You will find that there are examples of WIDE variations in constituency populations in the UK, for example.

    Editor’s note: This is understood. Also, one could argue congressional districts in different US states have widely varied populations.

    However, 1,240 voters in one George Town district and 600 voters in East End or North Side is quite a difference, wouldn’t you say?

  6. Editor – That is indeed a very wide variation, but so is the variation between Sleaford and North Hykeham (85,561)and Arfon (41,138)constituencies in the UK.

  7. A better example of wide difference in a UK constituency would have been Isle of Wight which at 111,000 is almost 3 times the size of the smallest constituencies.

  8. Interesting, but all this really proves is tha the UK districts aren’t complying with CPA guidelines either.

    We would still like hear what more people have to say on this topic. Should the country divide the single-member districts equally in terms of voter population? Or should it maintain the current six districts and just divide up George Town, Bodden Town and West Bay into smaller sections.

  9. No, not really. The UK was simply an example, but you will find the same in some other countries as well. Indeed, you have acknowledged U.S. congressional districts as an example. The point is that while equal numbers are a good ideal they are not always feasible, and we should not be led to believe that we would be out of step with everyone else if ours are not uniformly equal or roughly equal.

  10. Precisely the argument in this editorial. If equal numbers within the districts to within 15 to 20 per cent as per CPA are a good idea, why can’t it be done here? What is so infeasible about dividing up districts more evenly in a country of 60,000 people?

    Again, we invite more comments. We’d like to hear as many views on this as possible.

  11. As I understood it, the argument of your editorial was that all constituencies should be equal or roughly equal without exception and should be divided up on that principle alone, the implication being the CB/LC should have only one MLA while EE and NS (which are naturally separate communities from each other) should be combined to form one constituency.

    By contrast, I have made the point that in determining constituencies we should have regard to natural communities (and I should add, the fact that CB/LC are two thirds of our 3 Cayman Islands separated from us by water) and not feel must adhere rigidly to equal numbers at all costs.

  12. Do the current district boundaries set for GT and WB in particular ‘have regard to natural communities’? There are some pretty interesting combinations there for those who are familiar with Grand Cayman voting districts.

    If the three largest districts are to be chopped up in such a manner, what is the issue with changing or dividing or enlarging the three smaller districts?

  13. My point is that they ought to. We have to re-look at these in any event since the electorate has increased substantially since that report was produced.

  14. @ Speaker – Note that the PPM never championed the OMOV at first. Alden didn’t want the referendum. He wanted to wait until the new PPM government to implement the OMOV so PPM could get the credit. When Ezzard Miller and members in the C4C were pushing for the OMOV, Alden was for it, but not in his heart.

    @ Lebowski – You have to bear in the mind that the whole purpose of having single member constituencies, is to ensure the voices of the minority are being heard. If we have a national vote of all three islands, there is a danger of the sister islands or eastern districts getting disenfranchised by the majority in the larger districts – such as George Town and West Bay candidates will more likely make it in the house. So with a national vote, you have to think of the minority, and the only way to ensure the minority is include, is if you divide the country into electoral distrists. That just makes sense.

  15. Needlecase – I cannot presume to know what was in McLaughlin’s heart. Suffice it to say that the PPM indicated that if they were voted into office they would introduce OMOV and accordingly they have that mandate.

    I agree with your comments re a national vote.

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