Reaction to vote maps mixed

Former OMOV committee members weigh in

Members of the disparate grassroots group that began the campaign for “one man, one vote” in the Cayman Islands more than four years ago – an effort that eventually pushed government into this year’s redistricting proposal – are not all in agreement on the new voting maps released late last month. 

Some former group members said during interviews Thursday that the Electoral Boundary Commission is right to add a 19th legislative seat to balance out voting populations in the larger constituencies while preserving the cultural and historical integrity of the less populated districts of East End, North Side and the Sister Islands. 

“You’re never going to please everybody, but [the Electoral Boundary Commission] tried to keep the sizes equal within the larger districts,” said OMOV group member and Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo. “I’m quite happy with what’s been proposed.” 

Others said keeping the smaller areas intact was fine, but adding an extra legislative seat in George Town district was a waste of money. 

“I am supportive because it’s long overdue,” said businessman Derrington “Bo” Miller, “but I don’t think we need another representative. Pretty soon we’re going to have more representatives than voters.” 

Some members of the former OMOV group said they thought adding a seventh seat to George Town while keeping the smaller voting district populations in the outer areas amounted to a form of gerrymandering, aimed at getting a few more seats for the ruling Progressives political party in the next election. 

“The proposal for the 19th seat, I’d like the Electoral Boundary Commission to better explain that,” said businessman Johann Moxam. “These are the sort of games the country can’t afford.” 

Boundary Commission Chairwoman Lisa Handley, an American political scientist, has previously explained the commission’s thoughts on the subject. 

“We feel that in order to take account of the existing electoral districts, the traditional communities that reside within their boundaries, and to ensure that no single-member constituencies are substantially overpopulated, adding an additional single member constituency to George Town is necessary,” Ms. Handley said. 

Former OMOV committee member Woody DaCosta said he realizes the extra Legislative Assembly seat is being flagged as a “problem” with the proposed maps, particularly by those with a “political agenda.” However, he urged voters and residents to remember what the one man, one vote movement was about. 

“They forget the part about why we started this thing. It’s about equality,” Mr. DaCosta said. 

Cayman’s current multi-member voting system allows residents in each of the six electoral districts to vote a different number of times depending on where they live. George Town residents, living in the most densely populated district, get to vote up to six times and send six elected members to the Legislative Assembly. Bodden Town and West Bay residents get four votes apiece. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman residents get two votes, and residents of East End and North Side each get one vote. 

The map proposed by the Electoral Boundaries Commission, which still has to be approved by the Legislative Assembly, chops the existing six districts into 19, giving each voter in each district one vote. 

Mr. Miller said he did not want government to “throw the whole thing out” just because the boundary commission had added an extra seat to the Legislative Assembly, but he agreed that having 600 voters in North Side and nearly 1,100 in each George Town district did not make for a “fair system.” 

“But as they say, half a loaf is better than none,” he said. 

Another former OMOV member, Bodden Town resident Gregg Anderson, said he thought the 19th seat was a necessity. “Otherwise, you’re going to have a hung parliament,” Mr. Anderson said. 

That almost happened after the 2013 election, which was the first one held with 18 available representative seats. The Progressives party won nine of the 18 seats outright, with others being won by either the opposition Cayman Islands Democratic Party or independent members. 

A coalition of 13 members, including Cayman Brac MLA Juliana O’Connor-Connolly who joined the Progressives and three candidates supported by the Coalition for Cayman, was formed in the days following the election by Premier Alden McLaughlin. That coalition still holds today. 

If the odd number concerns the government, Mr. Moxam advised reducing the number of representatives to 17, rather than increasing it to 19. 

“The commission shouldn’t be adding to the wage bill for the government,” he said. “And if Cabinet approves the 19th seat … it would probably be better served in Bodden Town.”