Weighing in on the one man, one vote issue, the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce says it still supports proposals to implement that practice prior to the 2017 general election.
However, Chamber President Johann Moxam noted Friday that there’s no particular rush to put such a change into effect years before voters go to the polls again.
“The Chamber council agrees with Premier [Alden McLaughlin] that the national priority must be focused on the more urgent matters of the economy, getting unemployed Caymanians back to work and crime,” Mr. Moxam’s statement indicated.
“Public sector reform to lower the fiscal burden on the country and lowering the cost of doing business is critical to the business sector and future of the islands,” Mr. Moxam continued. “This can only be achieved by way of extensive Government reform to redefine and clarify the roles and the functions of the National Workforce Development Agency and the Immigration Department with specific and viable goals to get unemployed Caymanians back to work.”
Mr. Moxam indicated that the Chamber continues to hope that one man, one vote will be addressed in the current government cycle.
“The government has three-and-a-half years to implement the required legislative changes and we are hopeful that they will fulfill their campaign promise,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin said during the campaign for the May 2013 general elections that it was his goal to implement one man, one vote during the Progressives government administration if his party was returned to office.
Asked about the progress of the initiative last week, Premier McLaughlin reiterated his policy of no longer having weekly press briefings “so the media can sit there and take potshots at us.
“I’m not about to engage in a whole lot of speculation on stuff that I hear the opposition carrying on on the talk show about,” the premier said. “I’m not going to engage in this back and forth. I’ve been down that road many times and it never helps.”
Presumably, if one man, one vote is implemented, it will be in the form of single-member constituent districts.
However, questions were raised over Cayman’s specific plan to redraw the current multimember voting districts into single-member constituencies.
Although they gave the Cayman Islands high marks on its election process, international observers who oversaw the May 2013 general election noted that the territory is not in compliance with generally accepted “equal suffrage” principles or equal voting rights.
Commonwealth Parliamentary Association observers noted that Cayman now has two single-member electoral districts and four multimember districts, which return between two and six members to the Legislative Assembly.
“This disproportion in the number of elected members per electoral district contradicts the equal suffrage principle of ‘one person, one vote,’” observers noted in their review.
For perhaps the first time in a public forum, the fairness of the proposed one man, one vote single-member districts scenario drawn up by the 2010 Electoral Boundary Commission was also challenged by Commonwealth observers.
According to the preliminary review, voting equality was “further undermined” by the fact that the average number of voters in each district varies widely. Under the multimember voting system, electors represented by one legislator vary “between 520 in the case of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman electoral district and 1,240 in case of George Town electoral district.”
This is also against the principles of equal voting rights, Commonwealth election analysts said.
“Generally, the difference per district should be no more than 15 [percent] or 20 percent,” said election analyst Marian Gabriel, who traveled with the observer team. “This is the best practice around the world.”
The plan to divide Grand Cayman into 16 single-member electoral districts, as defined in the 2010 Electoral Boundary Commission report, would not come close to meeting that requirement.
Under the 2010 plan, the largest number of voters in one district, 969 people, was almost 70 percent greater in terms of registered voters than the smallest district, which at the time had 571 voters. Essentially, under the boundary commission’s plan, East End, North Side and the Sister Islands districts would be allowed to maintain a much smaller number of registered voters than the newly created single-member districts in George Town, West Bay and Bodden Town.
With the change in district voter populations that occurred between 2012 and 2013, that disparity potentially becomes even larger.
George Town now has 7,441 registered voters which, if split evenly among six districts would equate to about 1,240 voters per district. The smallest single-member district, North Side, now has 599 registered voters – meaning the difference between the George Town and North Side voter populations would be more than 100 percent under the new voter totals.
The practical effect of this, according to election analyst Alexander Matus, means that each North Side voter’s ballot would carry twice the weight of each George Town voter’s ballot.
“The principle of equal vote has two aspects; one is ‘one man, one vote’ or one man, equal number of votes; and the second aspect is the equal weight of each vote,” Mr. Matus said. “The number of people or electors represented by one member of the Legislative Assembly should be, as far as possible, equal.”