As voters made their way to the polls Wednesday, candidates expressed mixed feelings about the new “one man, one vote” electoral system.
With 61 hopefuls across 19 single-member districts, the new system attracted a record number of candidates. However, the voter participation rate fell slightly this year, down to 74.8 percent from 79.82 percent in 2013.
Before polls closed, West Bay West winner and Cayman Democratic Party leader McKeeva Bush had predicted low turnout.
“I suspect there was a low turnout because there is a lot of dissatisfaction,” he said. “People are not supportive of the system. I don’t think it worked well for our democracy.
“We got through the count quicker, and there were less people to contend with, but as I say, we cannot be satisfied because it was a low turnout.”
Coming in just shy of 70 percent, Mr. Bush’s constituency had the islands’ second-lowest voter turnout, beating only George Town North, which had 69.24 percent turnout.
Several other victorious candidates expressed their reservations about the system. George Town East winner and Progressives candidate Roy McTaggart said he sensed apprehension and confusion from voters.
Fellow Progressives candidate Joey Hew from George Town North described similar sentiments on election day, but said he believes the system will work well in the long run.
“There’s a little confusion with the single-member constituencies, but I think people are determined to vote,” he said. “It’s very mixed. But with anything new, people are going to have some concerns and feel a bit uneasy about it. But I think once they go in and do it this first time, we’ll be OK.”
In George Town North, Progressives winner Barbara Conolly said the new system made it easier for candidates to reach the public since they were able to target smaller voting pools.
“I feel one man, one vote is a good system in that it supports accountability between the MLA and the constituents,” she said.
However, she expressed concern that voter turnout could be depressed by low enthusiasm for candidates in certain constituencies.
George Town South challenger Paul Hurlston said, “I think one man, one vote will give people more power. They can hold it accountable …. I am really pleased with it.”
Independent candidate Kent McTaggart, who lost in Savannah to Anthony Eden, described single-member constituencies as a good first step toward greater parity of voting power.
“Is it perfect? Absolutely not. I think the fact that every voter has the same influence on the makeup of our legislative body is a definite plus,” he said.
Progressives candidate Marco Archer, who lost George Town Central in an upset to independent Kenneth Bryan, said many of his constituents preferred the old system.
“Some of them are a bit dissatisfied. They wish it had not changed,” he said. “Therefore, over the next four years, we’ll have to see what the people really think. If there are sufficient people who think it’s not what they wanted, the Constitution provides for the people to speak in such a way.”
In East End and North Side, voting under the new system was business as usual. As some of the smallest voting districts, these constituencies have been single-member districts since 1959.
East End had the highest voter turnout at 85.98 percent. North Side ranked among the top five constituencies for turnout with 83.78 percent.
Compass journalists Spencer Fordin, Michael Klein and Carol Winker contributed to this article.