The Cayman Islands 2015 Electoral Boundary Commission will complete its revision of the territory’s voting map by June, when it will be submitted to the governor and the Legislative Assembly, commission chair Lisa Handley said this week.
The commission will complete its public hearings Thursday night in North Side district, Ms. Handley, an American political scientist, said. She is expected to return to Cayman in May to draft voting maps that split Grand Cayman and the Sister Islands into separate single-member voting districts.
“The [boundary commission] report will be submitted in June,” Ms. Handley said Monday.
After the report is given to the government, Premier Alden McLaughlin has constitutional responsibility for “tabling” it – making it public – in the Legislative Assembly. Section 89 of the 2009 Constitution Order states he may do so “with or without” modifications to the Electoral Boundary Commission recommendations.
If the Progressives-led government does make modifications to the district map, it is required to make its reasons for doing so public in the Legislative Assembly as well.
Majority approval of the district map by assembly members is required prior to sending the final report to the governor. If she approves, she will order the new map to take effect “upon the next dissolution of the assembly after it is made.”
A key issue in the redistricting debate remains whether Grand Cayman’s two easternmost districts will remain separate or whether they will be drawn together.
Ms. Handley said this week that no decisions in that regard have been made by the boundary commission, and that the final decision would be up to local legislators.
The issue derives from the fact that the Cayman Islands, with 18,297 registered voters as of April, would have about 1,016 as a “voter” average per district if the islands were divided into 18 single-member constituencies. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman – which are guaranteed two LA representatives by the 2009 Constitution Order – would not come close to that number if single-member constituencies were to be adopted. Also, East End and North Side districts, if left alone by the boundary commission, would not have anywhere near 1,000 voters apiece.
Meanwhile, George Town – if divided into six single-member districts – would average more than 1,200 voters per district.
Commission member Steve McField said ordinarily the variance in voting population between the districts would be too great to meet international standards. However, the Constitution Order specifies that commissioners “shall have regard to existing electoral districts” in redrawing the voting map.
“If we did not have the constitution to guide us, ordinarily those two districts [East End and North Side] would have to be combined,” Mr. McField said. “We could make a recommendation to leave them as they are or to combine them … but you’ll have to wait until you get our report.”
Boundary commission members also had not decided on whether a voting map with 18 members would be drawn or if an additional LA seat might be added.
“The commissioners could recommend that George Town has an additional constituency with another seat in the Legislative Assembly,” Mr. McField said.
Ms. Handley initially said the commission intended to draw 18 separate single-member voting districts, to replace Cayman’s current six-district, multi-member election system. However, she conceded during a public meeting in George Town’s Mary Miller Hall that the 19th seat issue is “one of the things we are taking into account,” and that the commission might even draw up alternate maps, based on input it receives from district residents this week.
That answer was given after George Town resident and former member of the Legislative Assembly Lucille Seymour asked whether the work done by the commission “would have covered” the potential extension of the LA to 19 or even 21 seats.
“I sincerely believe that should be taken into consideration,” Ms. Seymour said.