Leader of the Opposition McKeeva Bush, speaking to about 100 supporters in West Bay on Tuesday night, urged Cayman Islands Democratic Party voters to reject a move toward “one man, one vote” and single-member districts.
Mr. Bush, joined by fellow MLAs Bernie Bush and Eugene Ebanks at the Sir John A. Cumber Primary School hall, said the proposed changes to local elections threatened Cayman’s democracy. “This is not something you play with. This is your democracy,” he said.
He urged the supporters to attend the Electoral Boundary Commission meeting in West Bay next week. The commission is in the midst of a tour of the islands collecting comments on redistricting for single-member voting districts.
Mr. Bush pointed to the success Cayman has seen in the past 60 years and asked why the elections system should change to international standards. “They can keep their international standards when it comes to my voting system,” he said. “Our way is much better.”
Cayman currently has six voting districts. Grand Cayman has three multimember districts – West Bay, George Town and Bodden Town – and two single-member districts, North Side and East End. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman share a voting district and elect two representatives.
There was some confusion Tuesday between the “one man, one vote” proposal and single-member districts. The one man, one vote proposal means each voter can cast a ballot for one candidate instead of the current system where someone can cast several votes for different representatives in their district. This is closely related to, but decidedly separate from single-member districts where each person would be able to vote for only one person to represent their district.
Those international standards, he said, call for districts to have similar populations with “5 to 10 percent difference in the numbers for each one.”
Mr. Bush encouraged some changes to the elections district, pointing specifically to North Side and East End: “What is never acceptable is for one district to have 600 and the rest to have 1,300 residents.”
“That is not equality,” he said.
Caymanians are better represented by multimember districts, Mr. Bush argued. If a West Bay constituent has a problem, he said as an example, that person can always find an MLA to help them. “If you can’t get a hold of me, you can get a hold of Capt. Eugene or Bernie,” he said, pointing to his colleagues sitting beside him.
With single-member districts, a constituent would have only one MLA to reach out to. A representative from the other side of West Bay, he said, might not care to help because the person can’t vote to re-elect him or her. “You can’t do anything for him, so he doesn’t need to spend his time on you,” Mr. Bush said.
He equated fewer people voting for each member to less accountability. The current multimember districts mean more voters to hold each representative responsible, he said.
He cautioned against small districts, pointing to problems with gangs in West Bay. In a district where a few hundred votes would win an election, what would stop someone with criminal intentions and enough contacts from being elected into office, he asked. “All it really takes is one really bad man,” he said.
Mr. Bush accused the government of trying to use election changes to prevent him getting re-elected. “You want to get rid of McKeeva? Let’s cut up the district,” he said.
He also questioned the constitutionality of the redistricting itself, saying that in a 2012 referendum, a majority of registered voters did not approve the move. People who did not come out to vote on the question, he said, voted “no” by not showing up. He noted the referendum required more than 50 percent of all registered voters to approve the issue, not 50 percent of votes cast. Mr. Bush’s former United Democratic Party campaigned heavily against the 2012 referendum.