Candidate challenges of ‘constitutional importance’

The first of what is expected to be three eligibility challenges to candidates in Cayman’s May general election came before the Grand Court Tuesday, with George Town South candidate Alric Lindsay appearing to answer the case.

Mr. Lindsay’s attorney, Anthony Akiwumi, said the court challenge raised matters of “constitutional importance” and also what powers the Elections Office had in summonsing the three candidates, two of whom he represents.

“It affects the entire democratic process, [both] by an individual who we say is qualified to participate [as a candidate] and with respect to the choice the electorate has in connection with the list of candidates available when the general election comes,” Mr. Akiwumi said.

Mr. Akiwumi told the court that his client is a Caymanian and indicated the issue before the court concerned “the effect of his adoption on whether or not he falls within the qualification criteria” as a candidate under section 61 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order 2009.

“This matter needs to be dealt with as speedily as possible,” Mr. Akiwumi said.

Chief Justice Anthony Smellie said the challenges would likely not be dealt with this week. Mr. Lindsay’s case and the challenge against Cayman Brac West/Little Cayman candidate Nickolas DaCosta were put off until a Tuesday, April 18 hearing.

Meanwhile, the third eligibility challenge to be heard, against Newlands candidate Mario Rankin, was expected to proceed Thursday.

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said every day of delay in these cases would have an effect, most notably on the issuance of postal ballots to Caymanians overseas who had requested them.

Those ballots have already been printed for 16 out of the 19 Cayman Islands voting districts and were due to be emailed to voters Wednesday. Mr. Howell said the office cannot email the postal ballots for the other three voting districts, George Town South, Newlands and Cayman Bract West/Little Cayman, because it does not know what candidates’ names to place there yet.

“May 12 is the last day [a voter] can request a postal ballot,” he said. “We have received requests for postal ballots from every district.”

The claims

According to the originating court summons for Mr. Lindsay, the elections office seeks a declaration as to his qualification for election under sections 61(1)(d) and 61(2)(b) of the constitution “on the basis that [Mr. Lindsay] is not a qualified citizen.”

Also, the summons seeks a declaration as to Mr. Lindsay’s qualification for election under section 61(1)(f) of the constitution. This involves the candidate’s “absence from the Cayman Islands in excess of 400 days in the seven years immediately preceding the date of his nomination for election.”

The summons against Mr. DaCosta also seeks a declaration of his eligibility under section 61(1)(c) of the constitution “on the basis that [Mr. DaCosta] was domiciled and/or resident of the United States of America at the date of his nomination for election.”

A second declaration regarding Mr. DaCosta’s qualification for election is sought under sections 61(1)(d) and 61(2)(a) of the constitution “on the basis that [he], at the date of his nomination for election, possessed U.S. citizenship.”

The third declaration sought for Mr. DaCosta under constitution section 62(1)(a) states that he is “by virtue of his own act, under an acknowledgement of allegiance, obedience or adherence to a foreign power or state, naming the U.S.”

The third claim relates to two issues: Mr. DaCosta’s appointment as a Notary Public in Florida and his registration as a U.S. voter in Florida since 2010, court records state.

The elections office is seeking a declaration of disqualification for election to the Legislative Assembly for Mr. Rankin under section 62(1)(e) of the constitution “on the basis of his convictions by the courts of the Cayman Islands for offenses involving dishonesty.”

The summons against Mr. Rankin does not specify the nature of those convictions.

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