The North Side MLA who has spent the last seven years publicly opposing party ideology in local politics may be forced to join one before the May 2017 general election.
“It just doesn’t make any sense at all,” Ezzard Miller told a group of East End residents gathered at the William McLaughlin Civic Centre Monday night.
Mr. Miller referred to what he called a “surprise clause” in the newly proposed Elections Bill, which Cayman Islands lawmakers are expected to vote on next month. The section requires registration of political parties – whether a group contesting a Cayman Islands general election calls itself a political party or not.
According to the rewritten section 22 of the Elections Bill: “Any group of persons whose activities indicate they come together to contest an election, shall register as a political party.”
In circumstances where such a group carries out activities that “indicate that they have come together to contest an election,” the supervisor of elections may conduct an investigation to determine whether the group’s activities indicate that it is, in fact, a political party. If the supervisor determines this is the case, the supervisor will then designate the group as a political party – with or without its consent, the bill states.
“Where a group of nominated candidates designated as a political party are aggrieved by the designation, that group of nominated candidates may, within seven days of the notification of the designation, appeal to the Grand Court against the decision of the supervisor [of elections],” the bill states. In such a case, the Grand Court would be required to hear the appeal within 14 days. No appeal can be made of the Grand Court’s decision, according to the bill.
The designation of a political party can be done, according to the bill, following the nomination of candidates, which occurs about six weeks before an election date.
“I guess they think they’re going to tie up me and [East End MLA] Arden [McLean], fighting us about whether we’re a political party,” Mr. Miller said Monday. “They can call us a political party all they want, we’re not a political party.
“It’s useless. It makes no sense.”
The determination regarding what is and is not a political party is important, mainly for financial reasons during the course of an election. Independent candidates are allowed to spend more money on their campaigns individually during the six weeks between nomination day and election day [$42,000 maximum under the amendment bill] while political party candidates can spend less individually [$36,000 as proposed under the new bill.]
Mr. Miller proposed a quick solution for that: “Just make it $40,000 for everybody.”
The Elections Bill contains long-awaited legal changes to set the stage for Cayman’s switch to single-member district voting in the May 2017 election. The bill states that all voters are only allowed to support one candidate in the district in which they reside. Voters who maintain multiple residences on Grand Cayman or in the Sister Islands must identify one location as their place of “ordinary residence” for the purposes of voting.
The move to single-member districts, or constituencies, has already been approved by the governor’s office and the Legislative Assembly via an electoral boundaries redrafting process completed in 2015. The proposed revisions to the Elections Law are largely a formalization of that effort.