The Cayman Islands now has more registered voters than at any time in its history, and a last-minute push to get out the vote is expected to put the total over 20,000, according to Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell.
“I’ve been leaving the office [on Smith Road] by the back door because there are so many people waiting out front,” Mr. Howell said Thursday. “People are definitely coming in to register.”
Mr. Howell said the George Town elections headquarters will be open between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 14, to help procrastinators sign up. The final cut-off time for registrations is midnight Monday, Jan. 16. The Cayman Brac registration hours will be from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at 270 West End Road, and between 8:30 a.m. and midnight Monday.
As of 12:01 a.m. Tuesday, registration for the May 2017 general election will be closed.
“Remember, if you are not registered by [Jan.] 16th, you cannot vote on May 24,” Mr. Howell said.
The voter registration deadline was already extended an additional two weeks to accommodate last-minute registrants for what will be Cayman’s first election since the 1950s to be held under a one man, one vote scheme.
In the May 24 election, Cayman’s three islands will be separated into 19 single-member constituencies, and only voters who reside within those areas can cast ballots. Each voter may select only one candidate, a departure from previous years when voters could select as many as six candidates, depending on where they lived.
As of Jan. 1, 2017 – the latest date for which data is available – the number of registered voters in Cayman was 19,449, an all-time high.
However, Mr. Howell said more than 1,000 voter registration forms were turned in as a result of the elections office door-to-door voter registration drive and more registrants are coming in by the day.
“We’ll definitely get over 20,000 voters, maybe 20,500 by next week,” he said.
The most populous district, George Town, has 7,169 registered voters. Those voters will elect seven candidates from separate constituencies which have about 1,100 votes each.
The two smallest districts, North Side and East End, now have 651 and 664 registered voters, respectively. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have a total of 1,113 registered voters, but those areas will be split into two constituencies of about 550 voters each.
Bodden Town maintains the second-largest number of voters for Grand Cayman’s districts (5,360), and West Bay is now the third-largest voting district (4,491).
While voter registration numbers are up overall, Mr. Howell said the numbers of younger voters, between the ages of 18 and 34, have not been encouraging.
According to statistics compiled by the Elections Office comparing the total population to the number of registered voters in each age group, people ages 15-24 made up about 17 percent of the islands’ population, but just 2.6 percent of the registered voters. The statistics are skewed because people ages 15-17 cannot register to vote, but Mr. Howell said it was clear the younger age group was not exercising their democratic right as much as they could.
In comparison, older Caymanians appeared far more likely to vote in the upcoming election. Individuals age 50 and up accounted for nearly 33 percent of those registered to vote in the next election, according to the Elections Office.
“We spoke to young Caymanians…about how to register and many said they weren’t interested,” Mr. Howell said. “The reason a lot of them gave was they didn’t want to be chosen for jury duty.”