Cayman Islands Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Friday that he is weighing a potential legal challenge to the new voting maps that will split the electorate into 19 single-member constituent districts ahead of the May 2017 general election.
Mr. Bush, a longtime opponent of the voting change which looks set to gain final approval in the Legislative Assembly as early as Monday, said he has until Nov. 20 to see “whether I have a judicial review to do.”
“I don’t have the money or I would have tested it already,” Mr. Bush said Friday.
The opposition leader wrote to Governor Helen Kilpatrick on Aug. 24, stating that his voting district of West Bay had been “disadvantaged” by the actions of the 2015 Electoral Boundary Commission.
Specifically, Mr. Bush’s claim is that after the boundary commission released its draft maps of the 19 districts, it held only two public meetings – one in George Town on July 7 and one in Savannah on July 8. Mr. Bush said no public meeting was held in West Bay district after the draft maps had been released.
West Bay district’s four constituencies in the 2015 maps were entirely shifted and redrawn from a 2010 draft map that was not approved by the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Bush said voters in his district opposed the way the single-member districts had been changed and were not able to make their views known to the commission in the follow-up meetings.
“The commission’s actions in West Bay [were] nothing less than gerrymandering and the beginning of Cayman’s political wars,” Mr. Bush said in the Legislative Assembly on Friday.
Governor Kilpatrick wrote back to Mr. Bush on Sept. 1, stating that the Electoral Boundary Commission had fulfilled all of its constitutional requirements by holding public meetings in the spring prior to the release of the draft voting maps. These meetings were held in each district and were aimed to gather the views of as many Caymanian voters as possible prior to the commencement of the redistricting effort. There was no requirement whatsoever to hold further public meetings after the draft voting maps had been released, she said.
The governor indicated that her constitutional responsibility for the redistricting proposal was fulfilled.
Mr. Bush, in a reply letter sent on Sept. 2, stated that he considered the governor’s response “very poor and despicable” in relation to what he called the “high-handedness taken by the Electoral Boundary Commission.”
The opposition leader noted that section 88 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009, requires the commission to seek the views and invite the views of members of the public. “They went to the members in George Town, they went to the members in Bodden Town, but not in West Bay,” Mr. Bush said. “They didn’t want to come back to West Bay because they knew that down there West Bay was against it.”
During Friday’s debate on the Electoral Boundary Commission’s 2015 report, Premier Alden McLaughlin and Bodden Town MLA Alva Suckoo praised the work of the commission for its even-handedness in dividing up voting districts in Bodden Town, George Town and West Bay into almost exactly even voting populations. The smaller districts of Cayman Brac-Little Cayman, North Side and East End were left with much smaller voting populations in order to preserve what the boundary commission believed was their culturally distinct heritage.
”[The commission’s] effort and the result has done away with any residual concerns that I may have had with this issue,” Premier McLaughlin said.
Mr. McLaughlin acknowledged during Friday’s meeting that the motion laid before the Legislative Assembly on Oct. 14 regarding the boundary commission’s report had wrongly named two of the four constituencies in West Bay. The incorrectly named constituencies of West Bay East and West Bay Northwest were amended by a vote of the assembly to West Bay West and West Bay North. Opposition members McKeeva Bush, Bernie Bush and Capt. Eugene Ebanks voted against the amendment.
Once lawmakers vote on the boundary commission report, the correct names of the voting districts will be contained in that report, Mr. McLaughlin said.