Caymanians who want to participate in the next general election now have until midnight Monday, Jan. 16, 2017 to register to vote.

The Elections Office agreed late last week to extend the registration deadline from Dec. 31 in order to ensure everyone who wants to has an opportunity to sign up.

The office has just completed a door-to-door voter registration check at every household, except in the largest district of George Town – the first house-to-house check by the Elections Office since 1996.

“We’ve done absolutely everything we can in terms of taking the opportunity to vote to them,” Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said.

Governor Helen Kilpatrick signed the general elections program Friday, which confirmed election day as May 24, 2017. It will be a public holiday in the Cayman Islands.

Supervisor Howell said last week that officials had been considering extending the registration deadline, even though a record number of people had already registered to vote in the upcoming election as of October.

On Oct. 20, there were 19,448 registered voters. Mr. Howell said he expects more than 20,000 people will register by the new deadline.

It’s estimated that as many as 5,000 Caymanians are now eligible to vote but have not registered. Deputy Elections Supervisor Sheena Glasgow said last Monday that 675 new voters had registered for the upcoming election, referring to those who had not previously participated.

A number of Legislative Assembly members have complained over the years that the Dec. 31 registration deadline, typically the date set for final registration ahead of a May election, is too far in advance for voters who are often more focused at that time on celebrating the holiday season with their families. Also, younger voters who may be eligible to cast ballots by the time May 24 rolls around might not realize that they need to register now.

“Those are all the arguments for why we should extend it,” Mr. Howell said.

The Elections Office on Wednesday will issue the formal “writs of election” – formal documents empowering the returning officer in each district to hold candidate nominations, count the ballots and hand back to the governor the name of the person who received the most votes in the election. “That’s the formal kick-off of our election season,” Mr. Howell said.

How to register

Registering to vote in the Cayman Islands cannot be done online for the May 2017 general election. Registration must be done in person at either the Elections Office in George Town or with the registering officer in the district where the voter resides.

The documents [original copies] that must be supplied to the Elections Office or registering officer by the voter differ slightly depending on whether the registrant is a Caymanian status holder or a “born Caymanian.”

In addition to completing the voter registration form [No. 4], a Caymanian status holder must submit: a birth certificate, a Caymanian status letter and photo ID [passport or drivers license]. In addition to the form, a Caymanian born resident who has Caymanian parents or grandparents must submit: their birth certificate, the birth certificate of one of his or her parents or grandparents who were born in Cayman and a photo ID.

The names and contact numbers for the district registering officers are: Bethany Powery-Ebanks [West Bay] 516-4402, Kathryn Myles [George Town] 516-2117, Kerry Nixon [Bodden Town] 516-4478, Leisa Welcome {East End] 516-4647, Patricia Ebanks [North Side] 516-4349 and Ellen Lazzari [Sister Islands] 516-5307.

Who can vote?

Any Caymanian can vote once they are properly registered as long as they have attained Caymanian status and have reached age 18, or will reach that age by the date of the general election, May 24, 2017.

Voters need only register once in their lives, but they must be resident in Cayman at the date of registration.

Voters can lose their ability to vote in any given election if they have not been resident in Cayman for at least two years of the four years immediately preceding the “voter registration date.” That refers not to the date the voter initially registered, but the registration date that occurs every three months after which an updated voters list is published by the Elections Office.

For example, if a voter left the Cayman Islands on October 2014 and returned in December 2016, they would not be able to vote in May 2017 since they have been absent for more than two of the four years before the final registration date for the election.

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