For the fifth time in the past two decades, Celecia Bancroft will be casting a general election vote under a name that is not legally her own.
Ms. Bancroft has tried a number of times since the year 2000 to change this situation, but she has never been allowed to do so.
When May 24 arrives, Ms. Bancroft will vote in the district of West Bay South, under the name Celecia Fahy, as she has done in every election since 2000.
“It’s just an antiquated system,” she said Monday during an interview with the Cayman Compass. “I’ve come across a number of women on social media over the past year who are all [upset] because they changed their names because they were told they had to, and then found out they didn’t have to.”
Her tale begins in 2000, when Ms. Bancroft got married and also moved voting districts from West Bay to George Town. She said she was informed at the Elections Office that because she was married, she needed to change her last name to her husband’s surname – Fahy – in order to receive an updated voter ID card.
“The Elections Office said that … you automatically lose your name and get your husband’s name,” she told the Compass. “I questioned it, but they would not allow me to change [voting] districts and fill out the paperwork unless I used my married name.”
Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell, who just took over the Elections Office for the 2017 general election, said there simply is no such rule.
“There is no legal requirement for women to vote using their husband’s last name,” Mr. Howell said. “If their official documents were previously switched to a married name, or if they choose to use a marriage certificate to register with their husband’s last name, they will be registered as such.”
In 2007, Ms. Bancroft/Fahy was divorced and took her divorce petition to the Elections Office to try and change her name on the voters list, even though she had never legally changed it from her maiden name on her passport or on her drivers’ license.
The Elections Office told her at that time that she needed a “deed poll,” essentially a legal change of name document which usually costs around $500 to $1,000.
She asked a local attorney to draw up such a document. The attorney informed her there was no need to apply for a change since her last name had never legally been anything other than Bancroft.
She let the matter go, keeping the George Town voter ID card with the “Celecia Fahy” name on it. “I’ve never been able to change it,” she said.
Last year, Ms. Bancroft moved back to West Bay and was contacted by an Elections Office representative in October during a door-to-door voter registration exercise.
“[The Elections Office worker] said I need to change your voting district [from George Town back to West Bay],” Ms. Bancroft said. “I said ‘yes you do, and it would be nice if you could change my name to my actual name.
“She said ‘I can’t do that.’”
Under the new one man, one vote system, all voters must cast ballots in the constituency where they reside. The voter ID cards specify those locations so that Elections Office workers at the polling stations know who can vote there and who cannot.
However, a new problem presented itself for Ms. Bancroft: “I have no ID in that name [Celecia Fahy]. If I don’t have a voters card …. I can vote using another ID, but your ID has to match the name on the [voters] list.
“It’s now one month before voting, how am I going to clear this up in time?”
Ms. Bancroft met with Elections Supervisor Howell on Monday to discuss the situation and review her voter information. She said Mr. Howell was very helpful, issued a new voter card for her district – West Bay South – and told her she would be able to vote on May 24.
However, the ID still displays the name “Celecia Fahy.” A name that – according to the woman it describes – does not legally exist in the Cayman Islands.
“At least, right now, this year, I can vote,” Ms. Bancroft/Fahy said.