Police examine election complaints

The Royal Cayman Islands Police Service confirmed Friday that it had received a number of complaints of election-related offenses, ranging from candidate sign defacement or removal to “treating” at some recent political events.

A police spokesperson said the service has received five formal complaints of sign defacement or removal which is it looking into. In addition, a handful of what were described as “informal complaints” regarding the practice of “treating” at campaign events were received and are being reviewed.

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said “less than a half dozen” allegations were received by his office in the past week or so that involve allegations of extravagant dinners of turtle steak and lobster or other rewards being given to voters attending certain political meetings. Those issues were all passed along to the police, since the elections office has no mechanism to enforce against them.

While the Elections Law forbids the practice of “treating” at political events, the police have historically allowed basic food and drink at political events. Former Police Commissioner David Baines once explained the difference prior to the 2013 general election, noting “common sense” should rule the day.

“If you attend a three-hour political meeting and there are soft drinks and there is light refreshment and sandwiches … that is made available to keep you interested, and it’s of a low value, that is not considered treating,” Mr. Baines said. “It’s a subjective value.

“In Hong Kong, a businessman held a buffet in support of a political candidate,” Mr. Baines said, giving another example. “He charged the people who attended $5 a head but they received an open bar and food in excess of $100. Now, was that corruptly offered in order to influence voting? Yes, it was.”

Mr. Howell said proof can be difficult to obtain in such cases and noted Friday that telling the elections office the day after an alleged “treating” offense has occurred is not helpful. He urged anyone who observed evidence of vote buying during the run up to the election to contact the RCIPS.

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