The Electoral Boundary Commission was left in no doubt on Thursday night about the opinions of 22 East Enders as to possible changes to their district boundary.
After discussion, participant Bernadette Bodden asked people to stand if they agreed that the boundary in East End should be left as it is.
Except for the people who had organized the meeting or were present as support staff, everyone in the William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre stood. Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell, who observed proceedings, confirmed attendance by that time at 22.
The commission is currently holding a series of public meetings in each Cayman Islands district to ascertain the views of the public as to whether the Cayman Islands should go from a six-district system to a system of 18 constituencies. The commission began its meetings in Cayman Brac last Tuesday and then went to Little Cayman on Wednesday.
When the East End meeting began, there were 11 people in the audience. Commission member Adriannie Webb welcomed them, saying, “You’re the largest number we have had so far.” More people came in as Thursday’s meeting progressed. Commission Chairman Lisa Handley told the audience that changes in Cayman’s electoral system will mean that each constituency returns one representative and each voter will have one vote. In the present multiple-member system, some districts have more than one representative and voters in those districts have more than one vote.
Commission member Steve McField said the new concept is that the number of people in the constituencies should be as equal as possible, within 5 percent or 10 percent. A fact sheet handed out showed the number of voters in the different polling divisions; most were in the 1,000-range. Logically, he noted, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman should not have two Members of the Legislative Assembly because their two polling divisions had 373 and 643 registered voters, for a total of 1,016.
As of April 1, East End had 632 registered voters, and North Side had 586. If combined, they would have 1,218 voters, roughly the same number as other voting divisions on Grand Cayman.
“But when you look at the Constitution, it does say we have to take account of natural boundaries,” Mr. McField said, adding that only because of what commissioners heard from the people would they would deviate. Mr. McField said the Constitution guarantees two MLAs for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
“When it comes to East End and North Side, there is no guarantee in the Constitution,” he said.
East End MLA Arden McLean said he believed that Cabinet would change the commission’s report.
“I don’t think so,” Mr. McField replied, emphasizing that the report will go to the governor and the Legislative Assembly.
Ms. Handley added, “The legislature may or may not adopt our recommendations, but we would like to hear from you where the boundaries should be.”
Mr. McLean was the first person to state his position: He said East End needs to remain as it is with a single representative.
Others in the audience agreed. One man asked that respect be given to the history and culture of East End.
Mrs. Bodden suggested looking at the map of Grand Cayman. East End and North Side are almost half the land area of the island, she pointed out, and would not be well served with just one representative. Besides, if the Ironwood Development goes through, there will be more growth in the east, she predicted.
Mr. McField agreed that when the East-West Arterial is finished, there will be a population shift. “We’re hoping it will finish and bring more people … Then your land mass would not look so empty.” Then, after the next census, there would probably have to be another boundary commission appointed, he said.
One man asked if the views of the two dozen or so people in the room that night would be in the commission report. Mr. McField said yes – everything was being recorded and would be taken into account and be reflected in their report. That was why he was disappointed in the turnout, because commission members wanted to hear everyone’s voice.
However, Ms. Webb said people could still make their views known privately to the commission by calling the Elections Office and making an appointment to come in during the month of May.
“We are changing a system we’ve had for 185 years,” she pointed out, adding that if people want their views heard, they could come to the public meetings or speak privately next month.
Electoral Boundary Commission district meetings this week
Monday, 7 p.m., Mary Miller Hall, George Town
Tuesday, 8 p.m. Sir John A. Cumber Primary School Hall, West Bay
Wednesday, 7 p.m., Bodden Town Primary School
Thursday, 8 p.m., Civic Centre, North Side.