Commission chair: Voting map will have 18 districts

The head of Cayman’s three-member Electoral Boundary Commission has confirmed that the group has not been instructed to add any new Legislative Assembly seats to the territory’s voting map ahead of the May 2017 general election.

Commission chair Dr. Lisa Handley, who is based in Maryland, in the United States, visited Cayman between Feb. 24 and Feb. 26 and plans to return on Sunday to resume the commission’s work.

The commission is set to change Cayman’s current general election map from six voting districts (five in Grand Cayman and one in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman) to 18 single-member constituencies.

“We plan on drawing 18 single-member districts,” Ms. Handley told the Cayman Compass.

The practical effect of that decision is that Grand Cayman’s five voting districts, which consist of three multimember districts and two single-member districts, will become 16 single-member districts, with each returning one member to the assembly. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are likely to be split into two separate constituencies, each returning one member. Cayman’s constitution requires that the Sister Islands be represented by at least two Legislative Assembly members.

Concerns that the Progressives-led government would attempt to increase membership in the Legislative Assembly to 19, 21 or even 25 MLAs were expressed last year by North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean.

During a debate on a government motion concerning the “one man, one vote” issue, Mr. Miller noted that government had not declared how many voting districts the territory could be divided into. Premier Alden McLaughlin has expressed concern that maintaining an even number of legislators could lead to a “hung parliament” – where no one party or group has a majority of candidates elected and therefore cannot form a coalition government due to political differences.

However, Mr. McLaughlin sought to quell fears about any increase in the current number of 18 lawmakers. “There is no such proposal in the [government] motion, the resolution speaks not at all to any increase in membership,” Premier McLaughlin said.

Mr. McLean said government’s intention in moving to single-member voting districts was “obvious.”

“It’s about me and the member from North Side,” he said during the debate. “The premier has said that I have fears about losing my seat if we amalgamate … East End and North Side.”

The issue Mr. McLean raised derives from the fact that, in order to create single-member districts on Grand Cayman with an equal number of voters, the districts would have to be split into about 1,100 voters apiece. Currently, East End and North Side have roughly 600 voters each. Also, the Sister Islands have 1,000 voters in total, so splitting Cayman Brac and Little Cayman into two districts would likely result in about 500 voters per constituency.

Mr. McLean said the Constitution Order, 2009, requires any Electoral Boundary Commission to “have regard for existing boundaries” in its work. “If the premier and his government are looking to make electors equal in this country, is he proposing to change the constitution, and Cayman Brac only get one [vote] too?”

The Compass asked Ms. Handley, following her appointment in January, about her general views in drawing up single-member representative districts.

“Electoral districts that vary greatly in population violate the central tenet of democracy that all voters be able to cast a vote of equal weight,” she said. “However, boundary commissions should be given some degree of flexibility to balance the concern for equal population with other redistricting criteria such as respect for communities of interest.”

This issue of “equality of voting,” or that all representative districts should have roughly the same number of voters, was discussed by a group of election observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association sent to keep an eye on Cayman’s 2013 general election. Widely varied numbers of voters in each district is against the principles of equal voting rights, Commonwealth election analysts said.

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  1. Here comes politics of the local bribes. You thought buying hams and paving neighborhood roads influenced elections over national issues before? Wait now….

    The politics of neighborhoods will begin. now elections will be about districts (who won’t accept the dump problem etc), nationality, race, income and the likeliness of changing a representative will be just about zero (See Arden and company). You thought OMOV will somehow lessen party politics vs. national interest? Guess again…. Now it will be solely about which flag you wave (including the white independent party flag), And the politicians pushing for this, knows this….

    Now what matters will be :

    – Who you know
    – Which bar you drink at
    – Where you’re from, whether someone if Cayman born, Jamaican descent, Hispanic, or from which ever neighborhood you are running in
    – Their color and whether someone is black enough, white enough, or latin enough.
    – How much money someone has
    – How poor someone is and how dependent on government they are. Likely the more dependent on government one is, the better
    – How you voted last election
    – How much can that neighborhood can get from government

    What will NOT matter to get elected is:

    – National issues
    – The economy as a whole and job creation
    – Tourism
    – Finance
    – Cayman education
    – The Cost of government

    And the premier will be elected based on how many recruits he can take across each neighborhood by promising to pander to each local politician’s demands on government. There will be neighborhoods which votes with consideration of national issues, but those will go ignored.

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  2. Mr Premier, I think that if every district were able to vote on who would be the premier, would be more honest and fair to the people to vote singly. Why change the number of seats to the LA , unless this is for your personal benefits , and obviously it is. We don’t need U.S.A rules for voting in Cayman Islands , we are our own country. Yes Mr Premier you should be scared of losing your seat, it’s too late people watch Alden with this move, and remember Castro and the people of Cuba .

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  3. I love the Sister Islands with all my heart. But anyone who can seriously state that splitting Cayman Brac and Little Cayman into two districts would likely result in about 500 voters per constituency must not realize that fewer than 200 people live on Little Cayman. So, it’s more likely that the number of voters there would be closer to 50 than 500.

    With that said, those 50 voters on Little Cayman would have as much political clout as the 1000 voters in the Grand Cayman districts. I can envision political wannabes heading to that tiny island in hopes of creating new career opportunities. The possibilities are fascinating and will likely generate interesting news at election time.

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  4. @AJ Ebanks:

    You hit you nail on the head. The tribalism that will grip Cayman going forward is going to be a disaster for this country.

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