The Elections Office expects to spend more than $1 million on the next election, including on a massive voter information and registration campaign.*
Elections officers plan to go door-to-door to speak to more than 18,000 registered voters as the Cayman Islands prepares for its first election across 19 single-member districts. They are also appealing to more than 5,000 people who are eligible but not registered to vote, to sign up in time to participate.
Training for the 19 returning officers responsible for the count has already begun. Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell said his staff are preparing for a likely election date of May 24, 2017, but will be ready if government calls a snap election before then.
Changes to the Elections Law to pave the way for the new system are being drafted and will go to the Legislative Assembly in the summer.
The proposed amendments could also include new rules around campaign financing. Current restrictions on spending apply only to the period between nomination day and the election, typically about two months. Mr. Howell said discussions are taking place about whether that should change.
“In other jurisdictions the reporting isn’t just about the campaigning, it is about the party financing donations and how you spend funds outside of the election period,” he said.
He declined to go into detail on what recommendations his office has proposed for the current election, saying it is up to Cabinet to decide which changes to take forward.
“That is a controversial provision and there are differences of opinion,” Suzanne Bothwell, deputy supervisor of elections, said of the campaign finance reporting period.
“At the end of the day, the Elections Office can put recommendations forward, but it is about whether or not it gains traction in the appropriate forum and what the public pulse is.”
A substantial part of the Elections Law Amendment Bill will make the necessary changes to facilitate implementation of the new one man, one vote system.
In the unlikely event that those amendments are not brought to the House in time, the Elections Office confirmed that the poll would still be held under the new system.
Ms. Bothwell said the constitutional amendment that created the 19 single-member districts takes precedence.
“We have to ensure the process reflects the constitution even if the law has not changed. There may be ways to do that, but the best option is to have the bill carried.”
She added, “We are definitely looking to have this wrapped up very quickly so we can firmly move into the new electoral system from a legislative and practical point of view.”
Mr. Howell said the Elections Office is beginning its preparations for the 2017 ballot more than a year in advance to counter any complications from switching to the new system.
He urged anyone who is not currently on the Electoral Roll to register now to be sure of being able to vote. If the election does take place as planned in May, potential voters have to register before Jan. 31 to be involved.
If an early election is called, the time frame is much shorter. For example, voters must be registered by the end of June to be on the approved list for October.
In the case of an early election being called, Mr. Howell said the Elections Office will be ready from a “logistics point of view.” However, he acknowledged that in those circumstances, voter education and registration initiatives, as well as the campaign season, would be compressed.
Though many people may not declare their candidacy until nomination day, Mr. Howell said he hopes those planning to run will assist in educating the public about the new system.
He anticipates issues from voters who may be upset that they can no longer vote for their favorite candidate who is no longer in their district.
“When you have a candidate who is very popular across multiple districts running in a single-member electoral district, they will need to educate their supporters how to go about supporting the interests of that candidate and their party, if they are in a different district.”
*This story has been amended from the original.