'That nah happen' (It might very well happen)

“It is obvious that part of the intent of both political parties is to try and combine East End [with North Side] with the hope of getting rid of either me or [East End MLA] Arden [McLean],” proclaimed North Side MLA Ezzard Miller on a radio talk show. He was speaking on the subject of the Cayman Islands’ proposed political transition to single-member voting districts.

He continued: “That nah happen.”

… Beg pardon?

As a seasoned veteran of Cayman’s Legislative Assembly, Mr. Miller surely realizes that a man in his position — that is, neither in the Progressives majority nor the Cayman Islands Democratic Party minority — is in reality in no position at all, when it comes to issuing edicts about the elected government’s possible actions, including changing election laws to reshape the boundaries of the district one has grown accustomed to representing.

“There is something afoot,” Mr. McLean said. “[Opposition Leader] McKeeva [Bush] talking about conspiracies; this is the conspiracy he needs to talk about.”

In fact, Mr. Bush did talk about said “conspiracy” on Tuesday evening during a public meeting in West Bay. More to the point, he singled out North Side and East End as patent violations of the concept underlying “one man, one vote” that each of our country’s lawmakers should represent, and be voted in by, roughly the same amount of people.

The position that Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean have staked out, that their diminutive constituencies ought to be as off-limits to redistricting as Bodden Town is to the dump, is one most accurately described in terms of entitlement. For when Mr. Miller and Mr. McLean argue for the preservation of their districts’ boundaries, they are actually arguing for protection of their political livelihoods.

Neither of those motivations — historical nor personal — is germane to the issue at hand, which is whether Cayman should change its long-standing system of multi-member electoral districts, and, if so, what the new system should be. The government’s Electoral Boundary Commission is pursuing the option of splitting Grand Cayman into 16 small, single-member districts (with the Sister Islands retaining their two representatives, as prescribed by the Cayman Islands Constitution).

Something that is of practical immediacy, however, is identifying precisely who is in charge of this operation. Here’s a hint: It’s not Mr. Miller or Mr. McLean, nor is it Mr. Bush. It’s not the Electoral Boundary Commission, either. The issue of what to do about “one man, one vote” is in the hands of Premier Alden McLaughlin and his government. To borrow a phrase from former U.S. President George W. Bush, they are “the deciders.”

The utterances of any other legislator, consultant, committee member or newspaper Editorial Board constitute, ultimately, nothing more than public input that Mr. McLaughlin and his government may or may not choose to consider as they make their decision.

With that in mind, we’ll continue to offer our thoughts on this important topic as it continues to be discussed within Cayman’s halls of power. We won’t, at this time, present our single “ideal” system of voting for Cayman — if such a thing even exists. We also aren’t sure that a definitive argument has been made that would compel Cayman to take leave of its current multi-member system at all.
If a change is to be made, we would argue that any new system should adhere to a few basic principles: equality (in terms of individual voter’s “bang for their ballot”), inclusiveness (as opposed to divisiveness) and efficiency (which could very well mean having fewer districts, not more).

Although much talk will be devoted to where and how to divvy up Cayman according to invisible lines, the overall vision for Cayman must be of one, united country, made up of one, united people — not of three separate islands, or six disparate districts, or 18 members of the Legislative Assembly.


  1. This change of the Islands elections system is something that we all should be concerned about. For the last 60 year as far back as I can remember, East End and North Side have always been a one-representative districts. We should ask ourselves these questions: are these districts less populated today? Should we have less representation? Why should we get rid of two life-long representatives for one new premier control.

  2. Mr Ebanks, this is how it works: OMOV depends on setting up equal size constituencies, each able to select from contestants and elect one member to represent them. It means that every voter has an equal chance to choose. The current system is simply not fair because a voter in one area may get a chance to put one member in the LA, whilst another gets a chance to put 4 people in. Now the supporters of that system will tell you that’s fine because there are more voters in the 4 seat area, but despite that, each voter in the 4 seat area has more elective power than the single seat area. In a small assembly it is even worse because of the effect a 4-vote block can have, and this has been particularly liked in West Bay, with the Big Mac and 3 small fries.
    So, OMOV is inherently fairer, the reason that the present incumbents are arguing against it is because they are currently getting what they want, but that isn’t what democracy is about. The most important issue is therefore to get the boundaries for constituencies right so that the areas have around equal populations. Then, there is an ongoing need to review the boundaries in the future, to ensure it takes account of population changes.
    Hope that helps!

  3. Google the term "rotten borough" or "pocket borough"…
    There is also a term "gerrymandering" where political districts are deliberately skewed to favor voters of a particular ideology. Fortunately the Boundaries Commission will make that nigh on impossible to sneak through now.
    Of course even if the boundaries are redrawn, Mr. Miller will still be free to stand in any electoral district he chooses; he just will have to work a little harder to be elected.

    The principle that is often forgotten is that democracy is not a competition where the winner gets a chunk of prize money every month until the new prize draw in four or five years time, but is much more like a job interview – all too often politicians fail to act in the best interests of their employers, the people!

    There needs to be enough districts to provide the appropriate number of ministers and ideally an odd number to prevent stalemate (50% Yes and 50% No is impossible if you have 15 people voting).