Local and international COVID-19 health protocols are posing a challenge for the Elections Office’s bid to have independent observers on island to oversee the 14 April polls, Elections Supervisor Wesley Howell has said.

Howell, speaking on the 3 March episode of The Resh Hour, said his office is working to get a team of observers to Cayman, as has been the norm at general elections, but the extended quarantining periods due to the pandemic have added some hurdles.

“Typically, they [observers] come out of the UK. The UK now has their own quarantine isolation regime so it’s proving very difficult,” Howell said.

For someone to come on island for the week of the election, which is a typical time frame, he said, “they would be isolating with us for 14 days… being tested on the 15th day before they exit, and then, returning to the UK, they have to be isolated again for, I think, another 10 or 14 days as well. So it’s a long spell.”

Added to this, he said, is the challenge of flight availability.

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“It is looking very difficult,” he added.

Only British Airways and Cayman Airways flights are allowed into Cayman at this time.

At present, only British Airways and Cayman Airways flights are allowed into Cayman, and the only approved flight from the UK, according to Travel Cayman, is on 11 March.

“We are still pressing ahead to see how best we can have observers that are trained and aware of what the protocols are so we can have that oversight, but I can say our process of appointing agents for everything from postal ballot issues, mobile voting and from the time we open the polls until we finish the count… that process itself is very transparent. We haven’t had issues with how we do those processes,” Howell pointed out.

Back in 2017, six of the Commonwealth elections observers who oversaw the 24 May polls, gave Cayman the highest possible marks for the conduct of the general election.

However, they suggested that some local laws governing elections need to be updated.

In particular, the observer team said, the two-year residency period for voter eligibility “appeared to be overly restrictive and may operate to exclude otherwise eligible Caymanians” from exercising their right to vote.

It is an issue that legislators have acknowledged.

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