Every signature on port petition must be verified

Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell fielded questions from the public on the referendum process Thursday night. - PHOTOS: JAMES WHITTAKER

The Elections Office will need to individually verify every single signature on the cruise port referendum petition before a vote can take place.

Elections supervisor Wesley Howell said staff would go door-to-door as part of a broad effort to check every name on the petition against the electoral roll and confirm the signatures are genuine.

RELATED STORY: The issue explained — How the referendum process works 

Speaking at a public meeting Thursday night, Howell outlined the procedure that would take place once the referendum campaigners submit their list of names to the Elections Office.

Though several campaigners complained the process sounded onerous, Howell said the Elections Office had performed the same exercise for more than 20,000 electors before the ‘one man, one vote’ referendum in 2012 in less than four months. On that basis, he said verifying approximately 5,300 signatures on a petition could take a matter of weeks.

He said he had already alerted the deputy governor that a request for supplementary funding may be necessary to activate the Elections Office and recruit temporary staff ahead of a potential national poll.

Campaigners announced last week that they had hit their target and it is understood they plan to present their petition to the Elections Office this week.

Howell, who answered questions from the public for around an hour at a meeting at George Town, Town Hall, said the office would then begin the process of verifying the signatures.

“Once that process is done and if the 25% threshold is crossed, the petition is sent to Cabinet,” he said.

Cabinet is then responsible for determining if the other aspects of Section 70 of the Constitution – the provision which deals with people-initiated referenda – have been met.

The section simply states that such referenda must be on issues of “national importance” and must not contravene the Bill of Rights.

Howell acknowledged Cayman was entering new territory with this referendum and said the only guiding legislation came from the short wording in the Constitution itself.

If the petition is verified and Cabinet accepts that the requirements of Section 70 have been met, he said a specific referendum bill would have to be drafted and voted on in the Legislative Assembly.

That bill would set the question, the date and the terms of the referendum.

Once that is done, the Elections Office, which is answerable to the governor, takes over and is responsible for organising the poll.

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