The politics & democracy of ‘one man, one vote’

| 24/02/2012

By now many people are aware that we are trying to collect approximately four thousand signatures to trigger a people initiated referendum to adopt the system of ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies for electing representatives across the Cayman Islands. Simply put, ‘one man, one vote’ means that a registered voter will be able to vote for only one candidate in their constituency during an election.

If sufficient signatures are collected to trigger the referendum and a majority of voters should vote in favour of the ‘one man, one vote' then candidates in the May 2013 general election will contest the 16 single-member constituencies across Grand Cayman. 

It was proposed by the Electoral Boundaries Commission in their 2010 report that George Town should have six single member constituencies, West Bay would retain their four, Bodden Town would increase from three to four with East End, North Side and Cayman Brac and Little Cayman remaining unchanged.  This may be contrasted with the current multi-member constituencies whereby each registered voter is able to cast a number of votes equal to the number of representatives in the Legislative Assembly allotted to their electoral district. For example, George Town currently has four representatives in the Legislative Assembly and each voter in George Town during the last election would have been allowed to cast four votes, one for each representative.

As with other issues, there are arguments for and against ‘one man, one vote’. Opponents believe that ‘one man, one vote’ in single-member constituencies will encourage our representatives to become even more myopic and further entrench the rivalry between communities for the allocation of scarce national resources. 

However, proponents of ‘one man one vote ’argue that it provides opportunities for better representation of a constituency as the single representative would have a much smaller number of constituents to represent, is more likely to have a better understanding of their needs, and therefore better able to advocate on their behalf in the Legislative Assembly. Additionally, the single representative would be more accountable than the current system of multiple representatives where each one is able to shift responsibility to another. The potential for the blame game is even greater where both parties are able to win seats in a multi-member constituency.

If the current petition is successful in triggering a referendum to determine whether the country should adopt a system of ‘one man, one vote’, and there is no reason to believe that it will not succeed, the Caymanian electorate will for the first time in decades elect their representatives based on the individual attributes of each candidate, and not because of the popularity of a running mate.

Therefore, attributes such as the character and integrity of the candidates, the capability, qualifications and relevant experience of newcomers, the track record of incumbents, each candidates ability to present credible and reasonable short and long term solutions to social and economic issues facing their constituents in particular and the country generally should be critical factors in determining the outcome of an election. In essence, what is it that qualifies a particular candidate to effectively represent the needs of that particular community and the country generally?

No one should believe that ‘one man, one vote’ will be a panacea for all time, however, it has the potential to raise the caliber of our representatives in the Legislative Assembly, but only if the Caymanian electorate believes that better representation is something they deserve to have and insist on having it to ensure a brighter future in the Cayman Islands.

If there is a referendum, and whether or not the electorate prefers ‘one man, one vote’ with single-member constituencies over the current system of multiple votes in multi-member constituencies, we should remain cognizant of the fact that it is not the electoral system that destroys a country and erodes investor confidence, rather it is crime, corruption, social unrest and mismanagement of the economy.

Marco Archer is an attorney-at-law with a local law firm

Vote in the CNS poll: 

If the petition for one man, one vote triggers a referendum, how soon should this take place?

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (39)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    Excellent article Marco. Proud to see Caymanians stepping forward and making their views known.

    Given that the majority of  us voted for the new constitution,  which required a report form the electoral boundary commisions, with recommendations following public consultation, can someone help me understand why we still need a referendum for one man one vote?  Particulalry as both the Government and the Opposition are now in favor of the same???

    • Anonymous says:

      The Government is not in favour of one man, one vote. If it were there would be no need for a referendum as this does not require a constitutional change but is consistent with (but not mandated by) the new Constitution. 

  2. Anonymous says:

    I would like to sign the petition, one man, one vote. It will give power back to the people.  Your vote will count.  Each candidate must stand on his own and not depend on a party or running mate. This will hold each one accountable. Now all those Caymanians that do not vote or are not registered to vote this is your time to vote/register and make a difference!  I have spoken to so many Caymanians that are not registered it is unbelievable.  Each vote does count.  And like they say if you don't vote you have no right to complain!

  3. Len Layman says:

    Signing becomes more important!

    It is very important that those who favor one man one vote still sign the petition.   We must not be swayed by the fact that Mac says it will happen at the next election anyways or that Alden says we are rushing. Both parties want to have it happen "after" they get elected,  again looking out for themselves not the people.  The more our elected leaders stall and dance around on this issue the more it makes it important for us to sign the petition now!

    By signing the petition we are telling both parties that the people have to be put before the parties.

    By doing so we assure that the government cannot back out.    The constitution requires them to hold a referendum if the proper numberif signature is reached.  They must, there is no fancy talk or excuses that can stop them.  I feel this is a ploy on the UDPs part to reduce the number if signatories.  Remember it was Mr. Bush that told us the GLF settlement would not come from public funds  and he flipped on that one.   By signing the petition we eliminate the possibility of him "flipping' on this promise also.

    By signing the petition we are sending a message that this is what we, we being the people of Cayman  not the just the rich folks or party folks,  want.  We are telling them that we want it, not if they think it is best but because we the electorate feel  it is best.

    We have the opportunity to make sure that the peoples wishes are carried through.  That is why the constitution as the referendum  written in.  I urge everyone that supports One Man One Vote, regardless of party affiliation or what your leaders are telling or promising you, to use your constitutional right to make sure they do your bidding.

    It is time that the people have their say on this matter.



  4. Caymanian born and raised... says:

    It is sad (listening on the radio 101.9 this morning) that Alden Mclaughlin has taken the moved by the North Side and East End MLAs to achieve a Referendum as a move that is RUSHING the process. Instead, Alden has indicated that he will achieve the "one person, one vote" when he is elected. He has announced that the two MLAs are rushing the process when the public is not educated. Alden please!!!  When will this political posturing stop?  It is the people who should be first, not your interest and your party!!!  Shame, Shame, Shame on you!  You are just like the rest of them!

  5. Anonymous says:

    What I would love to see is one man, one vote where you could vote for the best person you felt was worthy of your vote in ANY constituency such as on either of the three islands, not just the district you live in.  This way if we are going tobe dictated to by officials from ONE district as we have been, we would have ALL collectively made that choice by ALL our votes across the island.  If we have 15 representatives, they would have been elected as those who recieved the 15 highest number of votes regardless of their district or the district of the voters.  Cayman has to be run as one, not district by district and party by party as it has been.   This way one man, one vote will most definitley be representative of Democracy, by not forcing us to have to vote for one person in our district when we may have no confidence in any of them, but have confidence in one from another constituency.

  6. Chris Randall says:

    Further to the comments by Libertarian:  The 'Committee System' used to govern the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey has much to recommend it.  Those Islands each have their own parliament but decisions are made by representative committees the members of which are all elected.   

    So, for example, you might be on the committee responsible for road maintenance and your next-door-neighbour on one overseeing public utilities, and the lady across the street  on the health services committee.  etc etc.   

    That is as close as one can get to 'democracy'.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Would someone please publish a list of the locations where the petition is available to sign on all three islands. This should be widely and repeatedly publicised.

    • Anonymous says:

      Perhaps the persons pushing for the "ONE MAN VOTE" would explain to the public, what one man vote means and how it works. I have just returned to the Island and don't have a clue what in the hell you are talking about. Sounds alot like the constitution, voting for something you don't understand. Sounds like POLITRICKS to me!!

      • Anonymous says:

        Don't be ridiculous. One person, one vote is what the rest of the world does. So if you have been off the Island you should already understand the issue.   

        • Anonymous says:

          You are truly IGNORANT!  But then, ignornace on this website is not surprising, it's a daily occurance. There are still countries around the world , where there is no democratic process when it comes to electing a government, and for your information some of those countries are thrieving economically, no CRIME, people know exactly who they are and are quite content. I am Caymanian and lived and worked in one such country, for many years.  I am not stupid, but would really like to understand the "ONE MAN VOTE" .

          • Anonymous says:

            Obviously when I say the rest of the world I am referring to democratic countries. The democratic principle is one which most of us hold dear although it is clear that you admire more totalitarian regimes.  You should really not call someone ignorant and then seek explanation of a common concept which you do not understand. It is also ignorant to suggest bad motives for the initatiors of the petition when you admit you do not even understand the the concept of one man, one vote.

            One person, one vote single-member constituencies means that rather than the current system of multiple MLAs for certain districts and multiple votes for the voters in those districts we would have 18 electoral districts with roughly equally number of voters each of which one be represented by one MLA and the voters in those districts would each have one vote rather than 2, 4, or 6.    

      • Anonymous says:

        Actually it is really simple. The Constitution calls for an increase from 15 to 18 MLAs. If the present system continues GT would have 6 MLAs, WB 4, BT 4, CB/LC 2 and NS and EE one each.

        One person, one vote single-member constituencies would divide all three Islands into 18 constituencies of roughly equal populations and provide that each constituency would be represented by one MLA. Each voter would cast a single vote rather than one, two, four or six depending on the district.

        This is what happens in virtually every democracy the world over. It introduces equality among voters regardless of district. The other benefits are that it makes MLAs more accountable to their constituents and lessens the coat tail effect where people get elected, not because of their own merit, but because they ran with someone who was popular and the supporters of the popular candidate also voted for him. Instead each voter would be more likely to seriously consider how to cast the one vote he has and it ought to produce better quality representatives.

        The ground work for this has already been done by the boundaries commission and it should be quite easy to implement. It only requires that each voter understands that he now has one vote and does not spoil his ballot by voting multiple times.   

    • Anonymous says:

      One place that I know It is available is at Four Winds Esso in West Bay (at the four way stop by Centennial Towers).

  8. Anonymous says:

    We need a socialist party in Cayman, free healthcare, free eduction for all caymanians!

     Oops, we already have that, both parties must be socialist. now we just need to redistribute the money and tax all those foreigners to pay for it, oops we already do that aswell.


    • WVM says:

      Free education and free health care – how awful.  What you call "socialism" we tend to call "basic human decency".

    • Anonymous says:

      What a racist comment. Get your facts right, most Caymanians do not have free healthcare. Most of us pay through the nose over $1000 a month for it. A lot of us also pay for our children to go to school. We ALL pay taxes.

  9. Anonymous says:

    proportional representation would be even better. But wait, the parties would actually have to stand for something, eg have a polictical ideology. Personnaly I can't figure out who is the liberal, conservative or, god help us, the socialist party. This is Cayman, and it is all about who your friends are, or on what side your bread is buttered.

  10. Anonymous says:


    Friends, Participatory Democracy is the only Democracy that Cayman need – no other!  ;o)

  11. Anonymous says:

    Thanks Marco

    Where do I sign???

    this is long overdue and it is pathetic that both PPM and UDP use this as a political football.

    Both parties now "promise" (wink wink) to deal with it after 2013….if you vote for meeeee

    However, NOONE should be so naive to trust these empty promises. So, lets take control and make sure it gets done. As we all know, if you want be sure its done right, do it yourself. You sure cant rely on some politician's promise!

    Keep up the good work


  12. Len Layman says:


    The future of the Cayman Islands depends on our voting to go to one man one vote.  Until we do we are leaving the door wide open for the elected officials to continue to put themselves ahead of the people they are supposed to represent.

    We should be electing individuals which do what we the electorate want; not what they want. 

    One man one vote gives the people the accountability of their representatives that does not exist today.  It will go a long way to improving the integrity of our leadership.   It will give us the opportunity to have a government which will be forced to listen to the people who elected them.  This is a luxury we currently do not have.

    I urge everyone to sign the petition for the referendum on this issue.  It is time we let the people settle this issue as the politicians seem unwilling to.   If it gets voted down in the referendum so be it, that will be the peoples will, the same if it gets voted up.  Let the electorate  decide!

    It is time to give Cayman back to the people, and one man one vote is the best first step in this process.  We need our elected officials to be loyal to their constituents first, not the party as they are now.

    • anonymous says:


      Many times the people do not have sufficient information to make the 'correct' decisions. They lack access to the complexity of the situation and usually support emotively. What we need are honest politicians who are looking out for the best of the country and make decisions on behalf of us, even if we may emotively believe they are making the wrong decision. If it is the correct one, we will ultimately find out and understand why.

      Even referendums do not necessarily give the 'will' of the people. California is a good example. Their referendums are usually won by the side that has the most money to spend. The best TV ads. It will be no different here until we have a 'politically educated' population. A great example of this occurs is in Switzerland where referendums are used very effectively.

      Even with One Man One Vote, a strong leader or party will carry his team. The party will still be a force to deal with. Not unlike the democracy in the US, which I beleive is your home country. Party affiliations and support far out weigh the 'will of the people'- we see that every day on CNN.

      The real benifit of One Man-One Vote will be accountability of each and everyone of them in there. Nothing significantly more.

      BTW, Yes, I support it and suggest eveyone sign it.


      • Anonymous says:

        It will increase accountability but it will also help to lessen the coat tails effect because no longer will the people who vote for the popular one on the ticket also be able to vote for his running mates.   

      • Len Layman says:

        I agree with your statement.  "The real benifit of One Man-One Vote will be accountability of each and everyone of them in there. Nothing significantly more."

        But that accountability is a very, very, very significant thing. 

        I feel it will be a major step in changing the landscape of politics for the better.

      • Anonymous says:

        I support the one person one vote principle.

        With roughly 15,000 registered voters and with the proposed increase to 18MLA's means each constituency will on average have a little over 830 voters. 

        I am not surprised that the two single member MLA's from two small districts are behind the push for this, as it will ensure that the number of votes they are elected with (usually only a few hundred) does not look so disproportionate to the much larger number of votes received by the MLA's who get voted in to GT, WB and even BT.

        As a result of this change, the MLA's from North Side and East End, will have a much greater chance of becoming Premier, than ever before.


    • Lachlan MacTavish says:

      Listen to this man who knows what he is talking about. Great post.

  13. Caymanian Boat Captain says:

    Good article Marco. I fully support the "one man on vote" because it hold's politicians accountable, for their representation to the constituents in a particular area/sector of their district. No more getting a "fat salary and pension" and "passing the buck" claiming it's not in my authority or portfolio to do this or that, which urgently needs to be done. No more "dress up politicians" who do nothing but keep their mouth shut for four years, sleep during debates and when Election time comes, get back into the LA for another four years on the "coat and frock tails" of others.      

  14. Caymanian.. says:

    @ Knot Smart and ANON – I agree with you 100%

    @ Anonymous 10:53 – The young will lead.  Let us keep them well educated.

    @ Libertarian – Agree with you. You hit the nail on its head. The best remedy for corruption.

    @ Anonymous 11:12 – I don't think so!

    @ Anonymous 8:11 – And we need it to be easier to initiate a referendum; at least by 15% of the electorate to start one. 

    @ Marco Archer – Great article, let us keep promoting democracy!

  15. Knot S Smart says:

    Nice article Marco!

    It is good to see a new generation of Caymanians coming forward with their views…

  16. ANON says:

    Excellent article Mr. Archer!

    One Man One Vote is indeed a step in the right direction.

    It brings more accountability; you know without a doubt who is responsible for your area.  More transparency, and improved access to your representative are also benefits.

    One man one vote should lead to better representation for main street and less pandering to the faceless and nameless individuals and institutions that control government officials with an agenda which has nothing to do with the people's interest.

    One Man One Vote is simple and just makes good sense. It is the next logical step in Cayman's long road to better democracy.

  17. Anonymous says:

    Good article, Marco! It is heartening to see that young, educated Caymanians are championing this cause. It bodes well for the future of Cayman. 

  18. Libertarian says:

    Mr. Archer, consider the true value and reality of what "better representation" entails with fighting political corruption.  Note we can spend all day interpreting the meaning and wording of the common law. In a nutshell, we have MLAs who are representing and siding with big names or entities, and will most naturally, have laws passed on their behalf. The hardworking people who have to pay bills are out of the picture.

    Sir, the problem actually lies in the politics (or should I say poli-tricks) of this country. We have a representative democracy whereby we elect a few people (15) and completely entrust our destinies to them for fours years. Those with the majority in the LA house become powerful to the extent that the power corrupts them or makes them arrogant and unresponsive to the wishes of the people.

    It is time to demand some shift towards a participatory democracy in the Cayman Islands! The citizens should have some kind of direct control over the political system. It should not be limited to changing a government every four years, but the people should be able to participate in and even change the decisions of an elected government on a day-to-day basis. This is very important and many UK pundits know too well that such a democratic system is the ONLY and REAL antidote of fighting political corruption in the West Indies, because it cuts the head off the beast, not the tail, but the cunning opportunistic politician heads who are itching to receive the bribes, compose faulty accounting, and do favors for personal gain! The UK pundits know that if you convert the "representative democracy" we have for a "participatory" one where the people will have the power to legislate laws or cause laws to be legislated without an MLA, you more than likely pop the strings of control from the puppet masters!

    Is it possible to that?!  Is it possible to change or amend our Constitution to implement more direct democratic provisions therein? Can the people directly govern themselves on major issues and decisions whereby developers for large projects will have no other choice but seek their permission first?  Can the Cayman Islands be governed whereby the majority of an MLAs time (by at least 90%) will be debating and proposing and not legislating major laws – but the people are in charge of that???

    Yes. In the US, Brazil and Switzerland, to take three examples, people enjoy varying degrees of direct control over their governments. We can learn a lot from them. In the US, in some states people can recall or have them remove from office, their elected representatives – currently, how is it that we can't have that prevelege??? That is why the "one person, one vote" is so important, because it is a participatory democratic measure. It encourages equal participation from everyone consisting of the electorate. But we should not stop with just this measure.

    Sir, we need leaders, think-tankers, who will come with a beautiful array of direct democratic ideas for this country; who will fight until they are enforced. The more the people have a control over their political destiny and affairs, most naturally is the LESS CORRUPTION –  MARK MY WORDS!

    Unfortunately, Mr. Archer, "we" meaning the people, have little support. The United Kingdom's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), has really expressed no willingness to have these things implemented for us. Excuse all of those who want to thumbs me down who are blindly so loyal to the Queen, but Sir, trust me, they don't know "jack" about good governance!  TCI is just one ensample!  Moreover, these leaders in high places including our own are scare of the people!  They are scared to give the people of the territories so much power. Remember the FCO was created for UK's interest and accumulation of wealth from overseas. It was never formualted for the Overseas Terrotories interest. So that is the unfortunate thing for the Cayman Islands and all the other overseas territories. We just don't have the support, because we are considered second class citizens!  Hello!  Wake up!  That is the reality!  These pundits know too well what can nip corruption in the bud, but they are scared to go that route because it all has to do with maintaining Her Majesty's "control and power" over the territories.

    Now I have never recommended Independence!  For that would be as dangerous like sitting on our democratic rights, and watching our country become rigged by corruption!  I have always said and affirmed before that we are in dire need of leaders who will go to the UK and muster-up as much support as we can for our participatory democracy, because you are not going to find that support with the FCO, a government controlled arm that is all about Her Majesty's interest. Trust me, you will get the same rhetoric from them and her governors – A waste of time! 


    • Anonymous says:

      You know you can speak just a few words without the emotional drama, Lib.  No. Representative Democracy has its place. I would not trade my representatives, my MLAs and my MPs for nothing. And what?  We must have dumb people here have a chance to run our country into the ground?  Your crazy!  Get out of the dreamland and realize that you're fighting a losing battle. What Cayman need is the big bucks and more development for more jobs -period. We don't need fanatical change like you are suggesting. Such persons like you may very well lead us to independence.

    • anonymous says:

      Lib, just silly rant.

    • Anonymous says:

      Thanks Lib… keep up the rant!  😉

    • Classmate of 83 says:

      Lib on Friday around 10:37

      Dude, what the hell you trying to say or put the readers of CNS through?

      No man, keep it plain & simple where the common Caymanian can understand. Just like Mr. Archer did rolled it out.

      Marxs, pleeeeeze try descrimble what he trying to say.   

  19. Anonymous says:

    Excellent viewpoint. Thank you Marco I hope that your referendum proposal succeeds for the good of our country..