The sheer effort, mostly by volunteers, required to host Cayman’s 2017 general election was on display Tuesday at George Town’s Family Life Centre.
More than 200 workers, including presiding officers, their assisting clerks, returning officers and other volunteers made last-minute preparations for Wednesday’s vote.
More than 21,000 Caymanians are eligible to participate in the election of the British Overseas Territory’s next Legislative Assembly.
“Everybody that’s working [Wednesday] comes here, they check their ballot papers, they check their ballot books, they check their [voters’] lists … all the materials they need for Election Day,” Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell said during an interview at the Family Life Centre as elections workers made their last-minute preparations.
“They then seal that [information] in their ballot box, the presiding officer padlocks it, takes the keys with them. We take the box, store them under police security [Tuesday night] and then [Wednesday], we deliver them to the polling stations.”
Election Day for the workers starts early, around 5 a.m., as the elections staff shuttles the ballot boxes to the various polling stations – 19 of them, one for each single-member voting constituency – to prepare for Wednesday’s vote.
Mr. Howell said the presiding officers, who will have inspected their designated voting locations the day before, are in charge of the locations while the voting is going on. Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Wednesday.
It is the responsibility of the presiding officer to issue the ballot paper to the voter and provide instructions before the voter marks an “X” and drops the paper into the ballot box. Two elections clerks are on hand to assist the presiding officer, maintaining the voters’ lists for each constituency and checking off the names of people who have already voted.
The clerks also check voter IDs of those attending the polling stations. If there are any questions about where to go to enter a polling station, field officers are on hand outside the polling station to help. The presiding officer can answer any questions voters have while inside the polling station.
Voters are reminded under the new “one man, one vote” process that each elector can mark only one “X” and any ballots marked with multiple votes will be discarded. If a mistake is made on a ballot, the voter can request a fresh ballot paper. Up to three mistakes are allowed before the presiding officer is required to assist the person.
Mr. Howell offered a few last-minute reminders for electors: “Leave your cellphone at home, don’t wear your party T-shirts for X, Y, Z candidate. If you have no election ID, you can use another form of ID [passport or driver’s license] …. Just come out and vote.”
Those wearing political shirts, carrying signs or other pro-candidate paraphernalia will be prevented from entering a polling location.
Alcohol is not sold in the Cayman Islands on Wednesday, from the time the polls open at 7 a.m., until 7 p.m. – an hour after the polls close.
The vote count will be begin at 7 p.m. at each of the polling locations. At that stage, the returning officers take over the methodical process of counting each ballot.
For the 2017 general election, the vote counts will be done in the same buildings – though not necessarily in the same room – as the polling locations.
The postal ballots are counted first. They are kept in a separate box by the registering officer and generally take a little longer because officers must verify a voter’s eligibility before counting the vote. When the count of the ballot boxes starts, the returning officer will take each ballot, call out the name of the candidate being supported and then show the ballot to all attending candidates or the agents representing them. A second vote count can be requested by the candidates or their agents attending.
It may sound painstaking, but, Mr. Howell said that under the new one man, one vote single-member constituencies arrangement, there will be far fewer votes for the returning officers and their deputies to count.
“The process is the same,” Mr. Howell said. “We’re actually counting less names, with the exception of East End and North Side, per ballot paper.
“I’m hoping for midnight [to have the vote count completed]; it’s going to be a long day for them,” he said.
A number of road closures will be in effect for Wednesday’s voting.
In West Bay, West Church Street is closed from the four-way stop junction to Elizabeth Street.
In George Town, Fort Street is closed from Albert Panton Street to MacDonald Square, but vehicle access is granted to those working along Fort Street.
Edward Street is closed from Dr. Roy’s Drive to Fort Street. Also, the downtown bus depot will be closed.
The private road behind Cayman Prep will be closed. Residents seeking access to nearby apartments are asked to use Bobby Thompson Drive.
The road closures will begin as of midnight on Tuesday and remain through the end of the vote counting process.