One anticipated advantage of Cayman’s new one man, one vote election system is a potentially quicker, easier vote count on election night.
Cayman has many more voters now than the number who participated in the May 2013 general election. More than 21,000 people are registered to vote, and each voter can select only one candidate from their ballot. In addition, there will be more people counting votes this time around.
In the May 2013 election, the final vote tallies were not completed until 6 a.m. the following day.
“I am hopeful that the counts will be significantly faster, despite the increased number of voters,” Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said.
For the first time, counting will take place in each of the 19 voting constituencies – 17 on Grand Cayman and two on Cayman Brac – that make up Cayman’s new electoral map.
The largest constituency, Bodden Town East, has just more than 1,500 voters. The smallest district, Cayman Brac East, has fewer than 500.
A returning officer will be on hand to supervise the count in each of those districts, but in six of the 19 districts a deputy returning officer will be added to help with the count. Mr. Howell said the deputy returning officer in those areas will count ballots at the same time as the returning officer, hopefully speeding things up.
Candidates and/or their selected agents may also be on hand and are allowed to keep their own tally. If the candidates or agents are not present, two members from the general voting public must be selected by the returning officer to witness the count.
Cayman still uses paper ballots (although Mr. Howell has said that may change after the 2017 election), but those ballots will look different this time around. Photos of each candidate running in the district will be displayed along with their name and party affiliation, if any, or “independent” if there is none.
Previously, Cayman Islands voters could select multiple candidates, up to as many as six in the largest voting district (George Town), and each of those votes had to be tallied separately. Now, only one vote can be awarded to a candidate from any single ballot.
Ballots with multiple candidate names marked with an “X” will not be counted.
Another change in the process is that the election “command center” will be at the Government Administration Building on Elgin Avenue, rather than at the Smith Road building where the Elections Office has its headquarters or the Family Life Centre, which has been used previously, Mr. Howell said.
“As soon as a [ballot] box has been counted, the total votes for each candidate in that box will be reported to the command center and will be updated online and issued to the media,” Mr. Howell said.
“Once all the boxes have been counted in an electoral district, the candidate with the most votes will be announced … at the counting station by the returning officer.”
After the count is completed, the ballot boxes are transported to the election command center and then taken to a secure location and stored.
“The count will take place in the same venue as the poll, in some cases in a larger room on the same compound,” Mr. Howell said. “[Ballot] boxes will not have to be transported off site for the count.”
More than 400 postal ballots were requested by voters living overseas, and those votes are traditionally counted first because it requires returning officers to go through a much more stringent process.
In the one man, one vote single-member constituencies system, the postal ballots may have a far greater impact in any given race, since the total number of votes cast in each district is far smaller than under the old multimember voting system.
Each postal ballot is returned in a small envelope sealed within a larger one containing the voter’s declaration of identity.
The returning officer or deputy officer in each district has to check the declaration to see that it was properly completed, signed and witnessed.
The ballots that have valid ID declarations will not be viewed or counted at the same time as the identity declaration is reviewed because it could reveal the way the person voted. Those ballots are instead placed in a box and counted separately.