Here’s our contribution, submitted in writing: If the purpose driving the “one man, one vote” initiative is to ensure that each member of the Legislative Assembly represents approximately the same number of people, the Boundary Commission cannot avoid addressing the flagrant violations of that concept by the current compositions of the districts of North Side and East End.
If the Boundary Commission does not ameliorate those patent and blatant examples of electoral inequality, then none of its recommendations merits serious consideration.
While we focus on the eastern half of Grand Cayman, note that we would also make similar arguments in favor of rectifying the relative “over-representation” of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, if it were not for the fact that the Sister Islands’ two legislative seats are protected by the ultimate law of the land, the Cayman Islands Constitution.
Setting aside the Sister Islands and its two legislators, Grand Cayman has 17,281 registered voters and 16 elected members, equating to 1,080 voters per member, based on current statistics from the Elections Office.
Under the prevailing multi-member electoral system, the districts of George Town and Bodden Town are relatively “under-represented,” with 1,230 and 1,129 voters per member, respectively. West Bay has 1,041 voters per member, which is still close to the overall average.
However, North Side, with 586 voters, and East End, with 632 voters, are wildly over-represented.
Indeed, the most elegant solution appears to be to combine the two into a single district, with 1,218 voters represented by a single elected member — putting it on par, proportionally, with the country’s capital district of George Town.
We realize that adding North Side and East End together, and subtracting one elected member, would greatly impact the political futures of the two current incumbents, North Side MLA Ezzard Miller and East End MLA Arden McLean, who would face the following options: run against the other, switch districts or retire.
Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean, and like-minded others, may no doubt argue that merging North Side and East End would infringe upon “historical” or “cultural” district boundaries, which reflect Grand Cayman’s pattern of development revolving around five distinct population centers.
However, neither the political fortunes of individuals nor historic precedent should limit the Boundary Commission’s considerations. “Redistricting,” by definition, involves the redrawing of district lines; in practice, that necessitates changing fortunes for some politicians.
There is no reason why North Side and East End should continue to enjoy having an “extra” seat in the Legislative Assembly, using as a rhetorical shield the “preservation of historic or cultural boundaries,” while Grand Cayman’s other three districts — Bodden Town, George Town, West Bay — are carved up to create 14 brand-new “mini-districts.”
Putting it another way, every district in Grand Cayman is equally historical, and the lines demarcating East End and North Side should be no more sacrosanct than the invisible lines separating Bodden Town, George Town and West Bay.
If any single district is a candidate for “redrawing,” then all must be — as a matter of consistency, equity and fairness. Cayman’s system of voting, at the least, must promote equality over favoritism, national aims over parochial interests, and, above all, unity over division.
While at this point the Compass remains agnostic in regard to any specific electoral scheme (including the current one), we will be weighing in periodically as this national debate continues.