Come one, come all. Step right up and try your luck! The name of the game is “Run for Office,” and there are 19 single-member districts to choose from in the Cayman Islands. Big prizes, too: six-figure salaries, fancy titles (“Honourable” for some for life), plenty of paid travel, the chance to perform before television cameras and opportunities to meet famous and important people. No experience or education requirements.
A word of caution: Competition is fierce — and crowded — with more than 60 confirmed or potential candidates already, and two months still to go until the official nomination day, March 29.
Even if the number of candidates remains at 60, it will eclipse Cayman’s previous record for candidates (57), but we’re expecting far more than that … 100 is well within the realm of possibility.
Scores of candidates are organizing themselves into coalitions (two or three at last count), parties (two), and various assemblages of independents (which could coalesce into parties or less-formal groups by polling day, May 24).
The current confusion is an inevitable outgrowth of the “one man, one vote” system instituted by the current Progressives government, which has introduced a heretofore unheard-of degree of complexity, and potential risk, to the political process in our tiny corner of the world.
Proponents of “one man, one vote” argued that Cayman’s historical system of multimember constituencies generated inequalities in representation on the district level because, for example, in 2013, George Town had six representatives and North Side only had one. At the same time, however, nearly 13 times as many ballots were cast in George Town as in North Side — so it could be argued that George Town was actually underrepresented compared to North Side.
As we’ve pointed out before, because map makers chose to preserve the traditional boundaries of North Side and East End, the new “one man, one vote” system did nothing to address the district-level inequalities.
There were other considerations and consequences: Consider that under the rules in place from 2013-2017, each resident in George Town has six elected representatives. That means a George Towner who has a problem could approach, for example, MLA Kurt Tibbetts. If Mr. Tibbetts were unable or unwilling to help, the resident could go to MLA Roy McTaggart, then Premier Alden McLaughlin, MLA Marco Archer, and so on.
Under the new “one man, one vote” system, the same George Towner — let’s say he resides in “George Town East” — will have only one representative. If his MLA can’t or won’t help, then the resident will have no recourse to any other elected representative, at least not with the all-important leverage of being a constituent.
Then think about this separate, but related, issue caused by the smallness of the districts, which range in size from 511 registered voters (Cayman Brac East) to 1,465 registered voters (Bodden Town East), as of Jan. 12. Most “mini-districts” contain about 1,200 voters.
If three candidates run in Cayman Brac East and the vote is split nearly equally, the winning candidate could emerge victorious on the strength of a mere 171 votes — and then could go on to be chosen premier of the entire country.
Because the mini-districts are so small and the number of candidates so large, no one can predict with certainty how the 2017 election will unfold.
The Compass’s mission, as best we can, is to untangle the strands of the electoral spaghetti, and to explain the issues, fundamentals and dynamics of the 2017 election in the clearest and simplest language and graphics we can muster.
We will devote all of our resources — reporters, photographers, designers, editors, in print, online and otherwise — to this stated goal: clarity and simplicity.