The fact is that sentiment has not changed much; it was favorable previously, it is overwhelmingly favorable now – the introduction of single-member constituencies appears a matter of “when” rather than “if.”
The week’s poll asked the question: “What is your opinion of single-member voting constituencies in the Cayman Islands now compared to your opinion two years ago?” We invited explanations.
We recorded 336 voters and 22 explanations, ranging from “it won’t fix the dump” to “neither option will provide any benefit whatsoever to the country” to the proposition that single-member constituencies, supposedly making equal every vote cast, will do no such thing: “North Side and East End votes will be worth twice as much as my George Town vote under this proposal.”
Presumably this is because those eastern districts are already single-member constituencies. North Side elects its MLA with 802 votes; East End with 743 votes, tiny numbers relative to the 6,617 voters in George Town. The Electoral Boundary Commission proposes to divide George Town into five roughly equal districts of approximately 1,323 voters each.
The poll winner, by a decided majority, however, was choice No. 1: “I was for them then and I’m for them now.”
More than half the voters, 190, 56.5 percent of the total, were for single-member constituencies when they were suggested – and rejected – two years ago, and remain in support today.
Offered in support was the remark that launched – and continues to drive – the entire campaign: “The principle of one man, one vote with equal value is the cornerstone of democracy.”
In support of that sentiment was the twice-offered remark: “I like people having one vote regardless.”
Another commentator suggested that, instead of the Boundary Commission’s 19 single-member constituences, government might “reduce the number of single member constituencies to 7 or 9,” making “the elected members responsible for strategy. Leave the tactical stuff to the chief officers.”
Another remark in support might be described as naive, if nonetheless attractive: The single-member constituency proposal, the voter said, “makes everyone come together as one, and make a decision that is best for the island.”
Interestingly, in second place was the opposite view: “I was against them then, and I’m against them now,” although with 62 votes, 18.4 percent of the total, attracting only a fraction of the support of its first-place rival.
“This is a terrible idea just to please some politicians,” one remark read. By contrast, “to please the people,” the voter wrote, “we need a national election.”
A national election – all parliamentary seats chosen by every voter – was indicated a second time: “We need a national vote,” said the respondent, describing a flaw of the single-member constituencies as proposed. “The whole purpose of SMCs was to achieve equality of votes,” but, invoking the above-cited electoral districts, observed that North Side and East End votes would be worth 1.65 times and 1.78 times that of a George Town voter.
The call for national elections went out a third time from the group: “All Caymanians should have 18 votes (national elections).”
Finally, one voter feared sedition would ensue, rendering MLAs elected in single-member constituencies, chosen by a plurality and not a majority of votes, victims of “a party machine and/or a corrupt cabal of thugs/drug lords/felons/corrupt business/developer[s] oligarchy.”
Multi-seat constituencies and proportional representation – “ideally coupled with a national ‘list system’ – where a few seats are open to everyone island-wide,” was the answer. The commentator feared, however, that political ignorance would derail the scheme: “the level of ignorance is just too high on this entire subject.”
In descending order, “I don’t care” occupied third place, attracting 46 votes, 13.7 percent of the total, and adorned with such remarks as “None of these elected officials have an interest in my concerns … Why should I waste time on them?” and “No matter which [way] you look at it, you’re going to end up with the same result.” Others suggested replacing every politician, introducing term limits and prohibiting any elected official from serving again.
Ranking fourth, with 18 votes and 5.4 percent of the total was “I was for them then, but not so sure or against them now.” The only supporting remark was the cryptic “It feels and looks like we have gone 50 years back.”
In fifth place was “I was undecided then and I’m undecided now, drawing 14 votes and 4.2 percent of the total. One reader lamented “insufficient publication of the ramifications” of single-member constituencies, while another said, “What I am decided on is that we have way too many MLAs. We can’t afford all of these.”
Finally, with only six votes and 1.8 percent of votes cast was the sixth (and final) place “I was against them then, but not so sure or for them now,” supported by the intriguing “I didn’t understand it two years ago; now I have a better understanding and don’t want it.” The comments closed with the poll’s fourth call for a broad “one person, 18 vote” nationwide canvass: “I vote for national elections.”
Next week’s poll question:
Our electricity regulators say they are about to decide on commercial-scale solar energy. Is this the right way to go?
Yes, it’s overdue and delay is counter-productive
Maybe. It depends on prices for the consumer
No, it’s commercially unproven and too risky
Not yet, but we are getting there
I’m in favor, but it requires long-term changes for CUC and its customers
I’m opposed because it requires long-term changes for CUC and its customers.
To participate in this poll, visit www.caymancompass.com starting July 13.