Former FIFA Vice President Jeffrey Webb was excluded from voting in the May general election during voter objection hearings in Bodden Town Wednesday.
During the hearings, other Caymanians who expected to be on the voter rolls found out they were not.
Webb was crossed off the list in the district of Savannah, following his conviction for racketeering in the U.S. He is due to be sentenced on May 11 – just two weeks before Cayman’s May 24 vote.
Another person crossed off the voting list was former Chief Education Officer Shirley Wahler, who left the Cayman Islands for a government job in St. Helena in early 2015, was also taken off the voters list. She did not do anything wrong, but according to elections rules, her vote was objected to due to her absence from the islands before the general election voter registration date.
The rules relate to a constitutional requirement that Caymanian voters must be resident in the islands for at least two out of four years before the last registration date for an election in order to exercise their democratic right.
Ms. Wahler was just one of a dozen Bodden Town district voters to be removed from the list over the time she has spent away from Cayman before the election registration date. No one was present at the Wednesday hearing of voters objections/claims to speak on her behalf.
However, other Caymanians who were unaware of the rule, did speak up regarding objections filed against them.
“I am a born Caymanian; how do you stop me from voting?” asked Sidney Moore, one of 19 voters in the district of Bodden Town East who had been objected to.
Magistrate Nova Hall, who was presiding over the hearings, asked Mr. Moore why he had been absent from the jurisdiction for more than 1,000 days between 2013 and 2017. Mr. Moore said he had accompanied his children to school in the U.K. and had remained there with them. He said he was now back and working in the Cayman Islands.
Crown counsel attending the hearings advised the magistrate that this would not be an exception stated under the Elections Law for a voter to participate, although the Caymanian receiving the education abroad would be allowed to vote under the circumstances. Mr. Moore was struck off the voters list.
Another couple, Morris Sherman and Ellen Rose Sherman, appeared before the magistrate asking why Mr. Sherman’s voting status had been objected to. The magistrate said the couple had been off island a number of times for extended periods in the past several years, but Mrs. Sherman said this was for her husband’s medical treatment. Magistrate Nova Hall indicated that if the couple could show documentation proving their absences were for medical reasons, they would be allowed to vote in May.
The “two out of four” years residency rule for voting in the Cayman Islands is the subject of a human rights complaint that is before the Cayman Islands’ Human Rights Commission. The commission – led by local attorney James Austin-Smith – appears to be taking a dim view of the rule.
“The commission found that whilst the case law demonstrated an allowance for restrictions on voter registration eligibility where residency is not maintained, all cases examined have a far shorter or immediate reinstitution of eligibility once the individual returns to the jurisdiction,” the Human Rights Commission review of the matter stated.
Commission members said they requested advice on the issue after consulting with the Cayman Islands Constitutional Commission.
The Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission reviewed the issue after it received a complaint from a voter last September. The complaint was filed after the voter went to court on Sept. 12 to challenge a decision by the Elections Office in 2012 that prevented the voter from participating in the May 2013 general election. The decision also precluded the person from voting in the 2017 general election based on their residency outside the islands for more than two of the past four years before the last voter registration date. The last voter registration date for the May 24 election was Jan. 16.
Without commenting on the merits of the specific complaint, the Human Rights Commission noted that section 90 of the Constitution Order, 2009, which requires citizens over age 18 to be resident in the islands “no less than” two years out of the four years immediately preceding the registration date “may be incompatible with the requirements of the European Convention on Human Rights.”