How Much For Your Vote?

| 28/01/2009

As election time approaches it beginning to look a lot like …. Christmas? Given the history of elections in Cayman it seems that we can expect refrigerators, turkeys, hard cash and many other commodities in exchanged for your vote.

Have you ever considered how much your vote is truly worth?

The concept of politicians wanting to buy your vote is fascinating and often accepted by the electorate in this country. Many people will tell you that they see it as the price that political candidates must pay in order to enter the arena of representing the people of Cayman. In other jurisdictions, it’s downright illegal to do so and I’m going to argue that it should be here also. Last year, a 19-year-old University of Minnesota student faced five years in jail and a $10,000 fine for trying to sell his vote. He is accused of putting his vote in the presidential election up for auction on eBay. He started the bidding at $10. The charge is bribery, treating, and soliciting. He was charged under an 1893 Minnesota law that made it a crime to offer to buy or sell a vote. During the prohibition era of the 1920’s the law was used extensively to prosecute people who solved their vote for liquor.

It seems truly amazing that there could be legislation elsewhere that has existed for over 100 years that makes this practice illegal. Even more amazing is the fact that our elections law makes no mention of this. It should come as no surprise then that no politician has ever pushed for this practice to be publically condemned and legislated against. Let me be the first to say that I would support such legislation as quickly as possible. Election expenses are restricted only 6 weeks prior to the election date. However, there’s no such restriction on the number of gifts that are given out in the pre-election rush. Everyone knows that this is the time to ask for that new refrigerator, overseas trip or the much coveted Rolex watch.

Delving into the physiological reasons that we have reached this point might prove to be too exhausting. One contributing factor seems to be that most of us do not appreciate the sacrifices that were made so that we could vote. Not appreciating the value of something makes it very easy to give away for little or nothing. There are people all over this world that have died so that others might have the right to vote in democratic elections. People today would give their limbs and life to participate in what we take for granted. Our history of women’s suffrage may not have been so contentious but it was a brave act nonetheless that defied the accepted practice at that time.

In my opinion, the most compelling reason that voter’s should not sell their vote is that it devalues it to the point where we ultimately have sold our voices as well. Politicians believe that once you have sold your vote your input in the affairs and operations of this country are very limited – “see you again in four years”. Furthermore, because many politicians are burdened with trying to appease voters individually to secure their vote with gifts they are not likely to make decisions that benefit us collectively. In other words, when there are competing interests and the politicians have to consider what’s in the best interest of the people – the value of your vote becomes very important to them. If you have sold and devalued your vote essentially you have given politicians the power to not truly represent your interests but instead to recoup the loss of buying your vote in the first place. It’s a simple formula – you sell your vote to politicians and politicians will sell you down the river when it suits them. The entire electoral process is compromised. If you, as a person, own something that someone else does not value – it would be logical to assume that they DO NOT value the owner of that commodity either.

In these tough economic times itmay be tempting to engage is this practice and take something for “free”. Let us all remember that nothing is truly free and the price that we have paid and continue to pay is far too high. Instead, let’s seek out representatives who can work hard for our votes and work hard for us if elected to public office. Let’s vote for representatives who do not have the mindset that you can be bought for the equivalent of a turkey. Let’s vote for representatives who actually respect the voters and want to accomplish goals that benefit us collectively as a country.

My vote is NOT for sale – is yours?

 

Sandra Catron is an independent candidate for Bodden Town in the upcoming elections

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Comments (15)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    The news media in the country should ask every polition running for office the question, Will they support immediate legislation to initiate election reform and make illegal the paying in any form for votes.

    Shame them into action.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Jack,

    I like your sense of humor! In the last election hard cold cash was handed out in the district of WB. I’m hearing this is why the politicks are taking so long to declare because the "buy your votes" bank account is very low and they don’t want to be spending out of it until the very last minute.

  3. Jack says:

    What the hell? Who got washing machines???!!!!  My MLA only gave me a cheap lawnmower last election!

    I’m not voting this time unless I get better stuff. Times are hard, if they want our vote they have to pay up!

  4. Cinnamon says:

     

    Be original. Be a Leader.
    Hmmmm… This article reminds me of a well written letter entitled ‘Turkey Politics’ posted earlier this month in the Cayman Net News.                             http://www.caymannetnews.com/letters.php?news_id=12811&start=0&category_id=9
     
    However I must also commend you Ms. Catron on taking the moral ‘high road’ of not being bought nor buying votes.
     

  5. Anonymous says:

    Some good points in the viewpoint. How can we effect any real change if the people have accepted this way of having elections? It shows how we as a people are very happy to turn a blind eye to things or even participate in such illegal activity!

  6. Johnny Ebanks says:

    A law may not change things at first; but its a start in changng the mindset of the people. Make it illegal first and prosecute people and you will see. It’s easy to say "it’s not illegal so that’s why I will ask for a gift". But make it illegal and you’d be surprised how quickly people will think differently.

    On Turks .. do you see our local business men and politicians getting caught up in that corrupt mess there?

    • Anonymous says:

      While I agree as a matter of ethics that politicians should not give gifts as an inducement for a vote, unless there is clear evidence of an actual quid pro quo it is difficult to see that one would be able to establish the elements of a criminal offence. The prosecution would have to prove a certain mental element. Even where there are laws, take for example the case of Illinois Gov. Blagojevich who is alleged to have offered former Sen. Obama’s senate seat for sale, and there are taped telephone conversations which sound like quid pro quo, U.S. legal experts say the case may be weak in this particular respect. The issue is not nearly so easy as you may imagine.      

      • Afraid to strap on a pair says:

        I went with "Afraid to strap on a pair" since everybody else here fears reprisal and I guess that there must be a reason.  Seems folks from Illinois have certain sociopathic tendencies, doesn’t it?  Maybe feelings of entitlement, however undeserved?  No guilt, remorse or empathy?

  7. Anonymous says:

    When it comes to MLA’s and all government employees, there are many laws that need to be adopted. Sandra mentions the need to pass legislation that makes it illegal to buy and sell votes. Its a reasonable thing to expect in this day and age but it doesn’t go far enough. The Cayman islands really needs to enact CONFLICT OF INTEREST legislation that would apply to every single government employee including those working for authorities and statutory bodies. This would include everyone from the MLA’s right down to clerks.  The practice of government employees running businesses that compete or conflict with their official positions in the government needs to come to a stop. We have all seen the abuses over the past and it really needs to be stopped immediately. Unfortunately, it will take an entire new crop of politicians with strong moral ethics for that o be accomplished…….GOOD LUCK SANDRA

  8. Anonymous says:

    The simple fact of the matter is …. a Law will not change a practice

  9. Anonymous says:

    I would add that when a politician effectively buys his votes to get into power, he will want to recoup those out goings and more while he is power.

    Just look at the inquery in the Turks and Caicos how buying votes, accepting non repayable loans with no documentations from "polical donees" have almost bankrupted their country (this month their governementworkers (1/3 of the Belongers) weren’t paid on time due to lack of funds.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Sandra, you go, girl! I am proud of you and what you stand for. You are what Cayman need.

    Please can we not forget the lady, now in Canada, who had to forego her child to a child abuser in Cayman. He now has custody of him, god knows what this poor six year old goes through every night because the Cayman courts refused to recognize that one of their own from a prominent family is abusing his own kid? Which court takes a child away from his mother  and sister – isn’t something wrong here?

    • Anonymous says:

      To Canada story,

      First, I don’t see how this account fell under this viewpoint. One side of the story is good until the other is told. The courts will have heard both sides and, based on the evidence, come to a judgement.   The internet is not the place to seek to re-litigate the matter.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Bodden Town needs HELP in the community, Heritage Day (Badly organized or not a lot help in 08).

    If she up for the challenge!!!get out and get involved in the community…then the people of BT should rally behind her and she shouldn’t have to buy any votes because she is doing the right thing. The currently politician is surely not doing a thing for then….last year look how many times the people of BT have to cry for help with the rock throwing situation!!!

  12. Anonymous says:

    I think thatif a politician is willing to buy a vote with a washer, dryer, turkey etc..Imagine what he would do for big money? Sell out his country, his people, his soul?Think about it.

    Sandra, am behind you all the way.Am not voting and mainly because I can not vote in Bodden Town and cant vote for you. The others in this island so far seems unworthy of my time as they stood for nothing and fell for anything in the past four years.

    You on the other hand have this country and our children in your heart. Keep up the good work.