Draft boundary maps retain status quo for East End and North Side
Four of the Cayman Islands six voting districts were divided up into separate single-member constituencies in draft electoral maps made public this week.
However, the redrawn voting maps, which are set to be used during the May 2017 general election, did not impact the smaller districts of East End and North Side. Both areas retained their current shapes and were not combined with one another, despite having smaller voting populations than the newly formed single-member constituencies in Bodden Town, West Bay and George Town.
“We are of the view that East End and North Side should not be combined, despite their lower populations,” Electoral Boundary Commission Chairperson Lisa Handley said.
Cayman’s Constitution Order 2009 directs the commission to take account of natural boundaries and existing voting districts during its work. Commission member Steve McField, a local attorney, noted during public hearings earlier this year that the constitution’s wording did not provide “a guarantee” for the smaller districts.
Ms. Handley, an American political scientist, noted the two voting districts had already been operating as single-member constituencies for some time.
“Comments made to the commissioners during the public hearings indicate that a very clear majority of those who spoke to the issue, especially in East End and North Side, strongly agree that these two districts form distinct communities of interest and should not be submerged within a single electoral district,” she said.
The draft maps released on the Elections Office website Monday are not the final word on the matter.
Public meetings will be held next week to obtain further public input on the draft documents. The final Electoral Boundary Commission 2015 report will be submitted to the governor and the premier following those hearings and any tweaks the commission members make to the maps.
“We consider the single-member district boundaries we have proposed to be provisional at this point,” Ms. Handley said. “We will take [the public’s] views into consideration when finalizing our recommendations.”
The public debate surrounding the increase in the number of districts and regarding whether East End and North Side should be combined 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. With seven districts, that average number of voters comes closer to 1,000 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 during a public hearing in April.
The upcoming public meetings are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. July 7 at the George Town Town Hall and at 5:30 p.m. on July 8 at the Savannah United Church Hall.
“We are of the view that East End and North Side should not be combined, despite their lower populations.” Dr. Lisa Handley, chair, Electoral Boundary Commission