It seems a simple concept: Enter the voters booth, mark “X” next to one name on the ballot, and exit.
However, Elections Office managers have received numerous questions at public meetings in recent weeks about the territory’s new “one man, one vote” system, which is being used for the first time in the May 24, 2017 general elections.
Who can you vote for?
One audience member at a Nov. 9 public meeting in George Town wondered why he could not vote for any candidate in whatever district he wanted to, as long as it fell within the George Town district boundaries.
Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell explained that voters now have to cast ballots within the single constituency in which they reside.
“If the voter lives in Prospect … [they] can select any single name on the ballot for Prospect,” Mr. Howell said.
It might be easier to think of George Town district, as it was under the previous election system, as no longer really existing – at least for the purposes of voting in the next election. Instead, the voter who lives in the area designated as “George Town North” will vote only in George Town North. The voter who lives in “George Town Central” will only vote there, and so on.
It’s the same for West Bay and Bodden Town districts, which have each been split into four single-member constituencies, as well as for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, which now comprise two constituencies – Cayman Brac East and Cayman Brac West (which includes Little Cayman). The districts of East End and North Side will remain unchanged.
Where can you vote?
Mr. Howell acknowledged that the true difficulty may be in voters not being entirely familiar with the “new district” in which they reside and not knowing where to go to vote.
A voter’s residence has suddenly become very important in the next election cycle.
Premier Alden McLaughlin put it this way: “A vote here, or two, people didn’t really worry so much about it. Now that the numbers are so small [in the single-member constituencies], you’ve really got to make sure the people who are voting are registered in that district.”
Most constituencies, even the larger ones in George Town district, will consist of no more than 1,100 voters. The Cayman Islands runs a “first past the post” election system, so there is no run-off election if candidates do not receive a majority 50 percent of votes from the district. It’s possible that a candidate could win a district with just 250-300 votes on election day.
Specifically defined district maps that were made public last year outline the voting constituencies, down to the streets that separate each area. Mr. Howell said the Elections Office is making arrangements for 19 polling stations, one in each new voting district, so voters will not have to attend a polling booth outside of their district.
“We don’t want to confuse people,” he said.
Elections office representatives have also been going door-to-door over the past several weeks, checking on residents in more than 16,000 homesteads. Mr. Howell said this process is being done to verify that each person lives at the address they have specified on the voters’ register.
A number of difficulties can arise with election officials determining a voter’s primary place of residence, including if the individual maintains more than one residence in the islands, or if they moved after the final registration date before the election, or if they are a young adult still living at home with their parents between university breaks.
Mr. Howell said the person owning multiple residences would have to designate one as their primary residence. Voters who move before the election date would have to cast their ballot in the district they lived in before Dec. 31, the final registration date ahead of the next election.
Once the registration date is passed, the Elections Office will publish a revised voters’ list, which is open to challenge if a registered voter believes another voter is no longer residing in the location they have stated.