Independent and opposition lawmakers expressed doubts Wednesday about whether the Cayman Islands Elections Office would be ready for a general election if one were to be called during the latter half of this year.
Premier Alden McLaughlin has previously indicated this is a possibility, but he has been quiet on the subject of when an early vote might be called.
Opposition Leader McKeeva Bush said Wednesday during a meeting of the Legislative Assembly that it appears the Cayman Islands Elections Office and new Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell would have their work cut out if they were to hold a fresh election sometime between September and November.
“I don’t see how you all can be ready with all you have said has to be done,” Mr. Bush commented to Deputy Governor Franz Manderson during debate on a parliamentary question that was asked about the elections office staff.
Mr. Manderson said 21 people are now working either part-time or full-time with the office on readying Cayman for its next vote, whenever that happens.
“We’re talking about something that hasn’t happened yet,” he said.
Mr. Bush asked whether, in the case of early elections, Cayman would be ready to hold the vote under the new single-member constituencies system rather than the multimember district set-up. Previously, voters in Cayman districts received a different number of votes in each election depending on where they lived.
Under the new single-member district system, voters in each of the 19 constituencies will cast only one ballot. Governor Helen Kilpatrick has said, whenever the next general election is held, it will be conducted under the single-member constituencies system.
East End MLA Arden McLean pointed out that there are only six registering officers in the elections scheme. He suggested that there should be 19, one for each new single-member voting district.
“The law calls for a registering officer for each constituency,” Mr. McLean said. “Why haven’t we identified 19 people who can become comfortable with these constituencies and appoint them from now?”
Some technical changes in the Cayman Islands Elections Law will be needed prior to the next general election. It is not known when those will be completed; they are not on the agenda for the current meeting of the Legislative Assembly which began on Wednesday.
Mr. Bush also questioned whether any public outreach had been done to educate voters about the new system. Mr. Manderson replied that some efforts had been made on social media, but he said a wider public education effort will start in May.
“If the government called early elections, then everything … would have to be moved forward with post-haste,” Mr. Manderson said. “The most urgent matter would be to get the changes to the Elections Law done. Those changes will go to Cabinet shortly.
“I am confident that, if an early election was called, [the elections supervisor] will be able to deliver all of these plans he has put forward.”