Caymanians who register to vote in the territory may not be allowed to maintain that voting status, depending on their place of residence, according to a recent ruling from the electoral revising officer.

A case first brought to the local Elections Office in 2012 was heard before the revising officer – who is Chief Magistrate Nova Hall – on Monday, Sept. 12. It involves a Caymanian voter who was removed from the voter registration list in July 2012, based on lengthy residence outside the Cayman Islands.

Government documents, including emails, obtained by the Cayman Compass, state the voter’s claims during the hearing were that the voter was registered as an elector in the mid-1980s. The voter then spent a number of years living outside the Cayman Islands, but was allowed to vote via postal ballot, including in the May 2005 and May 2009 general elections.

The voter believed that the date they registered to vote was a “single date” and alleged the removal from the register of electors in July 2012 was therefore wrong in law.

In a Sept. 19 email to the voter involved in the registration challenge, Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell contended that the person’s understanding of how voter registration works in Cayman was simply not correct: “The legal provisions for removing persons not living in the Cayman Islands for the specified number of years from the register of electors goes back many years.”

Revising officer in agreement

Mr. Howell stated that Magistrate Hall, in her capacity as electoral revising officer, agreed with the elections office’s interpretation of the matter.

Mr. Howell stated in his Sept. 19 email that the voter involved did indeed meet the registering criteria in the mid-1980s.

However, he noted that the local Elections Law defines the registration date for elections as a “recurring date” and that this is the case for already-registered voters, as well as new voters.

According to the Elections Law, the registration date is the first day of January, April, July or October, next occurring after the previous register of electors comes into force.

“The registration date is not a single point in time and, for [the voter], it is not back in 1986, as the registration date happens four times a year as per the Elections Law,” Mr. Howell wrote. “[The voter’s] removal from the register in 2012, at the July 1, 2012 registration date was, in fact, correct and was in keeping with the Elections Law and the Cayman Islands Constitution [Order 2009], as the date of registration for which [the voter] failed to maintain … eligibility is July 1, 2012.”

In order to be registered as a voter, the constitution states the person must be a Caymanian, at least 18 years old (by the date of the election), is a resident of Cayman at the date of registration and has been resident in the islands for at least two years out of the last four before the registration date.

The constitution also allows exceptions to the residency requirements before voter registration for things like school attendance, government employment, seafaring or airline duties and attendance at an overseas hospital.

In the case before the electoral revising officer, the voter involved was working outside Cayman and admittedly did not qualify for any of the exempted categories. However, the voter argued that postal ballots sent for the 2005 and 2009 general elections were not disallowed, as far as they were aware, even though the voter would not have met the “two years out of four” residency requirement during those elections either.

In his emailed response, Mr. Howell said the elections office noted 495 Caymanians cast postal ballots during the May 2013 general election.

“I can assure [the voter] that the registering officers and the revising officer [Magistrate Hall], who is independent of this office, will continue to work to help ensure those persons who are on the register are entitled to be registered and those persons that no longer meet the eligibility requirements are removed from the register.”

‘Permanent registration’

The case involving the Caymanian voter was considered by the Elections Office in 2012-2013 under former supervisor Kearney Gomez as well.

In responding to the voter’s complaints via a March 28, 2013 letter, Mr. Gomez noted that the Elections Law makes it an offense for a registering officer to allow anyone to remain on the register of electors if they are no longer residing in the voting district the registering officer presides over.

Mr. Gomez noted the individual in this case was registered as a voter in 1986, 13 years before the advent of “permanent registration” in the Cayman Islands.

“Elector registration up until 1999 was done every four years by house to house visits,” Mr. Gomez wrote at the time.

“The constitution specifically states that you would have to be resident in the Cayman Islands for a period or periods amounting to not less than two years out of the four years immediately preceding the date of registration,” the letter continued. “These findings disqualify you from being on the register of electors for the Electoral District of West Bay and, for that matter, any electoral district in the Cayman Islands.”

[*] Editor’s note: Last paragraph of story removed to ensure accuracy.