A picture says a thousand words.
In the case of single-member district voting in the Cayman Islands, we expect the new boundary maps will spark thousands upon thousands of words of discussion.
Imagine, for example, the potential haggling over whether the inclusion of one neighborhood, or the exclusion of another, appears to put one political candidate at an advantage over an opponent. Or, whether a boundary line on the new map seems to split apart a distinct “community of interest,” or joins two disparate areas into a single voting district.
In regions where regular redistricting is a way of life – i.e., the United States – these kinds of debates rage on and on, for years on end, through election cycles and inside the courts.
Indeed, redistricting tends to ignite into one of those incendiary topics (in the company of abortion, gun rights and religion) to which lawmakers, lobbyists and special interest groups invariably flock, like moths to a flame, resulting in many burns, much heat and little light.
We must ask, and not for the first time, is this the kind of debate that we in Cayman should be inviting upon ourselves?
We are well aware that one of the primary planks in the Progressives’ campaign platform was to implement “one man, one vote,” the underlying principle of which, as we understand it, is to ensure that each voter’s ballot counts about the same, and that each member of the Legislative Assembly represents approximately the same number of people.
Cayman’s current system of voting does not, arithmetically, achieve this ideal. For example, in the three largest districts – George Town, Bodden Town and West Bay – each elected member “represents” more than 1,000 voters. In the two smallest districts on Grand Cayman – East End and North Side – each member “represents” about 600 voters.
On the Sister Islands, the number of voters per member is closer to 500 … But that arrangement has been enshrined in the Cayman Islands Constitution, and so, in the absence of a referendum, will be preserved regardless of the Progressives’ decision on single-member districts for Grand Cayman.
However, neither East End nor North Side enjoys such constitutional protections. Accordingly, if the driving purpose of “one man, one vote” is “equal representation,” then the Boundary Commission cannot avoid addressing the flagrant violations of that principle by the current compositions of those eastern districts.
Put another way, it makes no sense to carve up George Town, Bodden Town and West Bay – while leaving sacrosanct East End, North Side and the Sister Islands – and invite all the unintended consequences of divisive parochial politics, as well as the unknown horrors of redistricting, if the new maps do nothing to achieve the basic concept of equal representation.
Our current system, while idiosyncratic, is not inadequate – and at the very least, there is much historical precedent for, and a long-standing familiarity with, its flaws.
If we are to make fundamental changes to the way we elect our representatives, we should face increasingly outward, not inward, and should move in the direction of having fewer, not more numerous, voting districts. If the Cayman Islands is to have a bright future, our government’s decisions cannot be driven by neighborhood politics. Quite the opposite.
The individual success stories of West Bay, George Town, Bodden Town, East End, North Side, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have always been, and will continue to be, determined by the overarching narrative of the Cayman Islands as one single unified whole – never the other way around.