The number of registered voters in the Cayman Islands has not changed much in the last three years, but Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell expects that to change when “election fever” starts to hit the islands ahead of the next general election.
The election is currently set for May 24, 2017. The official voter list for the May 2013 election was 18,492 people. As of July 21, 2016 there were 18,457 registered voters.
“When the Electoral Boundary Commission did their work [in 2015], the list was at 18,297. So to have the list where it is now, subtracting deaths, folks sentenced to more than 12 months [in prison], while adding new voters is actually a good sign before most candidates declare,” Mr. Howell said.
“We projected to have our highest level of voter registration by the time registration closes before the May 2017 general elections.”
Voter registration for the next election closes as of Dec. 31, 2016. There is a potential complication regarding registration with the uncertainty over whether an early election could be called toward the end of this year, which Premier Alden McLaughlin has noted is still a possibility.
On Monday, Mr. Howell said elections office workers and volunteers started training for the process of going door-to-door with registration and voter change-of-information forms. Canvassing is expected to start in a few weeks.
“To say the voters list has not grown at all is a slant,” Mr. Howell said. “In non-election years, the list shrinks as voters are removed faster than they are added. Typically, we would still have declining numbers at this point in the cycle, before the candidates hit the road, and the voter registration kicks into high gear.”
There is precedent for big voter increases just prior to Cayman general elections.
The list of registered voters stood at 15,386 in May 2009 and dropped to 15,136 prior to a referendum on the one man, one vote/single-member constituencies issue held in July 2012.
By May 2013’s general election vote – less than a year after the referendum – the number of electors soared to 18,492.
Cayman-made it easier for prospective voters to register following constitutional changes that took effect in November 2009. Those allowed anyone holding Caymanian status to register to vote, regardless of citizenship in other countries.
Still, members of the 2015 Electoral Boundary Commission noted in their own estimates that some 25 percent of Caymanians who were eligible to vote simply had not registered.
“We understand there are somewhere around 5,000 people who are eligible but not registered to vote,” commission member Steve McField reported in May 2015. According to numbers produced by the government’s Compendium of Statistics for last year, the boundary commission’s estimates regarding the number of unregistered voters may be a bit low.
The compendium puts the total number of Caymanians age 15 and older at 25,906. Conservative estimates are that at least 24,000 of those individuals are 18 or older and, therefore, can legally vote.
While government estimates state that the total Caymanian population has grown by about 4 percent between 2013 and 2015, the corresponding growth in registered voters has been zero during the same period.
Meanwhile, the territory’s overall population, including Caymanians and non-Caymanians, was estimated at more than 60,000 people during 2015 – the highest it has ever been, based on government statistical surveys. That means about 30.5 percent of the legal resident population is now eligible to vote.