If all goes according to plan, Cayman Islands residents will be able to view new proposals for single-member district voting maps by the end of this month.
Electoral Boundary Commission chair Laura Handley said last week that commission members were seeking to “post” the maps, both online and in local public libraries, by the last week in June. The commission expects to host another round of public meetings in the first week of July to discuss the proposed changes.
“Our plan is to post paper maps of the proposed single-member constituencies in the district public libraries,” Ms. Handley, an American political scientist appointed by Cayman’s governor to lead the three-person boundary commission, said. “Because of the size of these maps, the proposed constituencies for the West Bay area will be posted in the West Bay library, the George Town constituencies in the George Town library, etc.
“A full set of paper maps of all of the proposed single-member constituencies will be available for viewing in the elections office and will be posted online on the elections office website.”
Final specific details of where and when the maps will be posted will be announced shortly, she said.
The Electoral Boundary Commission, which also consists of local attorneys Steve McField and Adriannie Webb, held a series of public meetings in April regarding what would be a major change to Cayman’s four-year election process.
Right now, the Cayman Islands are divided into six voting districts which all return a different number of members to the Legislative Assembly based on the voting population within those districts. The largest district, George Town, returns six members to the House – meaning voters who live in George Town get to vote up to six times. The smallest two districts, East End and North Side, return just one member to the Legislative Assembly, so voters there only get one vote.
The changes proposed would divide Grand Cayman into 16 separate single-member constituencies and divide Cayman Brac and Little Cayman into two separate constituencies, depending on what lawmakers ultimately decide. The change would make voting constituencies much smaller and give all electors only one vote to cast, regardless of where they live.
A key issue in the redistricting debate remains whether Grand Cayman’s new voting map would maintain 16 single-member constituencies, or if an additional Legislative Assembly 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 during an April public hearing.
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.
There also remains the matter of whether the two smallest districts of East End and North Side would be drawn together as one single-member constituency.
Ms. Handley said the final decision on that would be up to 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 Legislative Assembly 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.
Mr. McField said, ordinarily, the variance in voting population between the districts would be too great to meet international election standards. However, the Constitution Order 2009 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.”