Accountability in OMOV and SMC

| 16/07/2012

As we draw nearer to the Referendum on 18 July 2012, much has been said concerning one man, one vote (OMOV) in single-member constituencies (SMC) and the attendant equality of voters. Therefore, by now, everyone with an open mind probably understands what is meant by voter equality. However, it is the issue of accountability that seems somewhat elusive and is being complicated by the anti-OMOV rhetoric of opponents.

Accountability should not be confused with equality in the number of registered voters in an SMC. It is about the quality of representation and not the number of voters represented.

Therefore, a representative has an obligation and should be willing to give satisfactory reasons to his or her constituents for any actions he or she may take while serving as their representative. With an SMC one can safely say that a representative has little choice but to be responsive to their constituents simply because there is no one else to blame for their actions or lack thereof.

A case in point is the ForCayman Investment Alliance between the Cayman Islands Government (CIG) and Dart Realty. Whether you are in favour of or opposed to the proposed closure of part of the West Bay Road or the movement of the landfill to Bodden Town, it is evident that approximately four thousand residents, primarily those in the three larger multi-member constituencies (MMC), believe their interests were ignored by their representatives. They contend that this only occurred because they account for a minority of the votes in each MMC. In other words, in each MMC, they are merely a voice within the crowd.

Now contrast the above with East End and North Side. Having only one representative each because of the smaller number of registered voters, they in fact each operate as an SMC where a smaller population enables everyone in those districts to become a name and a face within the community where their vote matters and, consequently, their voice matters.

Therefore, when the residents of those districts opposed the East End Seaport in 2011, as it was perceived by residents that it would adversely affect both districts, their elected representatives had no choice but to join the fight. What justifiable reason could they give for abstaining from involvement? Therefore, if the current polling divisions of George Town North, West Bay South and Bodden Town were each an SMC when the CIG and Dart Realty deal was proposed the representative of each SMC would have had no choice but to canvass the views of their constituentsas to the perceived pros and cons and then represent accordingly.

Consequently, in an SMC each voter has a single, easily identifiable, district representative who has no opportunity for passing the buck. This encourages a stronger connection between representative and constituent, which itself enhances accountability. He or she is therefore more likely to be responsive to his or her constituents than to their party. Furthermore, incumbent politicians in an SMC tend to be difficult for party leaders to remove, which gives them a degree of independence from their party.

While not putting it forward as their policy, opponents of OMOV have recently introduced the concept of a national vote where the first 18 candidates receiving the most votes would be declared the winners. Though not inconsistent with the use of one man, one vote and equality of voters, it would do nothing to improve accountability and responsibility. If it is possible to avoid accountability and responsibility at the district level it would be much easier to do so at a national level. It would also decrease the representativeness of the LA as it would no doubt be populated by candidates from the larger districts, leaving smaller districts with no representation. Furthermore, a national vote would do nothing to remedy the perception that introducing OMOV in an SMC will make our politics increasingly parochial. Therefore, a national vote would be counterproductive.

Another objection is that an SMC would be too small and allow elections to be fixed. In fact there has been far more controversy regarding fair elections in the Cayman MMC than in any SMC.

Therefore, accountability is inextricably linked to responsibility. Accountability does not mean absolute and total perfection from a representative but it does demand that a representative be willing to provide justifiable reasons for their action or inaction. In an SMC with a smaller number of voters, the explanation is more likely to be forthcoming from the representative since no representative can afford the risk of losing any vote with so few available.

As a result, although the voters' ultimate recourse in an SMC and an MMC is to vote to change their elected representative at the end of an election cycle, the power of the voters in an SMC to compel their elected representative to act is greater.  Thus an SMC gives the voters a better chance to effect change within an election cycle as opposed to once every four years.

Category: Viewpoint

Comments (20)

Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

  1. Anonymous says:

    I heard Mr. Archer speak tonight and I am very impressed not only with him but the other young men of OMOV.  They explained the process very throughly and answered all questions objectively and truthfully.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Can someone help me. Is it true that if you haven't registered in the last election, you are not eligible to vote in this referendum? 

    • Anonymous says:

      If you are not already a registered voter as of 1st April 2012, then unfortunately you will not be able to vote in the referendum.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Libertarain, you have it all wrong this is not politically motivated by Ezzard. He is fighting for equal rights for the people he represents. The OMOV committee sees it the same as Ezzard does, equality for all. Please remember the bill of rights come into effect November 6th 2012 so tell me does East End and North Side have the same rights?  I would say not. I am an East Ender so after November I might just use the state for equality. hmmmm that's an interesting thought.

    • Libertarian says:

      Note that the Equality that the opov advocates are taking about is only short term. Equality is determined by a districts population. One thing they are not mentioning to the public, is that as districts increase in population, they will have to change the borders of the districts to equalized the population, so that we don't have what we have now where all like George Town has over 10 thousand people and North Side less than a thousand. Really, the Equality that they speak, is conditional for a time until we are back to square one – how we is now!

      • Anonymous says:

        Lib, the only population that is relevant is the voting population. Boundaries may be reviewed say every 10 years. Some may change and others may not. It is not a major issue.

        The equality that they are speaking of is that each voter regardless of district has one vote. That will never change and we will never be back to square one because some boundaries are adjusted. Each constituency would always have one representative and each voter would always have one vote.  

        • Anonymous says:

          Sounds like a system of more cost to me.

          • Anonymous says:

            Actually a dictator would be even cheaper. Of course he would need to dumb down the populous and put them on the dole. Oops

      • No says:

        As the districts grow the boundaries comission will simply review the population and adjust the boundaries or add additional constituencies. This is part of the process but you would only expect this to happen every 10 years or so.

  4. Blue Berries and Red Apples says:

    Regarding your statement #1:  "Therefore, a representative has an obligation and should be willing to give satisfactory reasons to his or her constituents for any actions he or she may take while serving as their representative. With an SMC one can safely say that a representative has little choice but to be responsive to their constituents simply because there is no one else to blame for their actions or lack thereof." 

    Don't we have that now?  Aren't Mark and Dwayne getting the blame for their actions day and night?  What is the difference?

    Regarding your statement #2 – " they are merely a voice within the crowd." 

    O please, even in a omov, people will still become a voice within the crowd. There is nothing new in this.

    Regarding your statement #3 – "Now contrast the above with East End and North Side. Having only one representative each because of the smaller number of registered voters, they in fact each operate as an SMC where a smaller population enables everyone in those districts to become a name and a face within the community where their vote matters and, consequently, their voice matters." 

    And what happens when population increases again in each of those districts under the omov?  Will you divide the country even more to lower populations per district?  Don't you see there is really no significant change if you were to have the island cut into 50 pieces, still population will increase and your back to square one!

    Regarding your statement #4 – "This encourages a stronger connection between representative and constituent, which itself enhances accountability. He or she is therefore more likely to be responsive to his or her constituents than to their party. Furthermore, incumbent politicians in an SMC tend to be difficult for party leaders to remove, which gives them a degree of independence from their party."

    Marco, its not going to change a thing!  Party loyalties will continue and if an MLA does not want to be accountable all he has to do is pretend to be accountable. It's not going to make any huge difference.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Excellent viewpoint Mr. Archer.

    I have listened and read in order to gain education on the pros and cons of OPOV and clearly there are more benefits to moving to OPOV so as to give "all the People" more equal power.

    Also, undoubtably there are more learned, just and educated persons calling for OPOV.

    Thank you to those spearheading the Peoples Initiated Referendum (to give "the People" a say) and especially Mr. Ezzard Miller, Mr. Arthur Hunter, Mr. Donnie Ebanks and Mr. Charles Clifford just to name but a few.

    I will be voting YES! on wed.

  6. Len Layman says:

    Well made points.  Those against OMOV like the "safety in numbers" they now enjoy.  SMC would make it more difficult to dodge their accountability.
    Vote YES on Wed. and encourage others to also.

  7. Libertarian says:

    Marco, my take on the one person one vote system, is not so much accountability, but representation. Under the one person one vote, you see three pillars:  VOTER EQUALITY, MLA ACCOUNTABIITY, and definitely MORE REPRESENTATION (for district minorities).  And yes, it is not a system where you have a complete rule of the majority, excluding the Sister Islands and Outer districts, as you would see in a National Vote advocated by the UDP party. 
    Nevertheless, I do not feel that the one person one vote single member constituency system, is the best for us. If it is passed on the 18 of July, I think we should consider reevaluating the one person one vote system. Have a special independent commission with the task of exploring the worldwide electoral systems and which system would be conducive to the Cayman Islands. Why?  Because with the one person one vote system, if I don't want to see a candidate become an MLA in another district from mine, because he/she is a bad apple, what choice do I have to prevent this from happening?  Suppose that candidate becomes the Premier, then what???  Under the one person one vote system, my hands would be tied to one vote for the candidate ONLY in my particular district. This disenfranchises the voter from having enough choices in shaping the government he/she wants to see. I believe from the start, they should have really pushed for the one person two votes, meaning each person would be able to vote for their particular district MLA and have another vote on hand to vote for who they would like to see Premier. That way, the people as a whole would have direct say in also being able to recall or remove the Premier from office if they lost confidence in him. So whereas not having the one person one vote system, disenfranchises district minorities – having it will also disenfranchise voters as a whole in seeing who forms and leads government. So the one person one vote is not a PERFECT system and my fear is, because it is politically motivated as well by Ezzard, because it would be to his advantage as well, it may remain with no appeal for improvement. A special commission is necessary to having a nonpartisan one-sided approach on the most conducive electoral system for these islands.
    What is Ezzard saying and the proponents behind the one person one vote saying that will ensure to us that after this is pass, they will move forward for more democratic reforms, such as ALLOWING THE PEOPLE TO HAVE THE POWER TO RECALL OR REMOVE THE PREMIER DIRECTLY. People should have more involvement with not just voting for their district MLA; they should have that right to vote as well for their leader – everyone should have that right. What will be assured to the public when the one person one vote is pass that this will be.
    VOTING "YES" – VOTING "NO" FOR ONE PERSON ONE VOTE, IS NOT MY CONCERN, IT IS WHERE WILL WE GO FROM THIS POINT ON… Does it even make sense to divide the country into 18 times?  Will we receive the accountability that we want to see?

    Regards

    • sammy says:

      I think you have a point.  whether we vote nay or yeah, will it change the fact that we are always seeing the same faces every four years. maybe there should be a referendum to change the entire constitution

      • AA Milne says:

        Where were you in 2009?

        You had the referendum, you all voted yes to a really poor document (which certainly wasn't worth all the hassle and expense of the alleged consultation process, education campaign, referendum and all the expense of amended all the legislation in force and changing everything, because it is just as inferior, and yet strangely more dangerous due to political and religious interference, than the 1972 constitution) and now you have to deal with the consequences. 

    • Dicktator Must Go says:

      Libertarian:

      I thorougly agree with your take on the entire concept of OPOV.  I listened to the "Premier's" speecxh last night on TV and as usual, McKeeva Bush is trying to cast blame for everything on Ezzard and Arden, because he, in his infinite stupidity, still refuses to take responsibility for the way he has been mismanaging the country's finances.  It is ironic that there are a few good men in his party and I sincerely hope they will lookinto themselves and putting McKeeva Bush aside, do what they feel is best for their country and ultimately, themselves. I supported McKeeva Bush for several elections, but that was when he was a Caymanian for Cayman.  Now he is premier for anyone who has the deepest pockets and is willing to dig down and hand to him.  He shouted and blustered, last night, which is typical of him, and he really did not clarify anything except that he is and always be supportive of the party system, as long as it is the UDP.  When he took over the government years ago, I stood up and defended him and his followers against the people who claimed that he was going to sell our country to Dart.  Now I see that the people back then were correct.  HE IS NOT CONCERNED WITH WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR COUNTRY AND PEOPLE, XXXX,  GET RID OF HIM BEFORE WE HAVE A TAKEOVER BY THE BRITISH, LIKE TURKS & CAICOS ISLANDS.

      • Shaun for UDP says:

        I for one support the current government. The deals with Dart are necessary for investment on the island. When UDP went to the UK to borrow, the UK refuse them although the lenders were offering government good loans. So because UK refuse, UDP had to do something fast.  What else were they suppose to do?  The country needs revenue not taxation and austere measures to bog down everyone. The country is in dire need of revenue!  So UDP had to go to Dart and craft good concessions, and yes, it does appear that he is setting the country up to be overtaken by Dart, its does appear that the Premier is involved in corruption, but we can't get distracted.  Nothing is for nothing. You can't have your cake and eat it too. If we have no revenue coming into the country, then were screwed.

        • Rorschach says:

          You need to put down the glass of Kool Aid and take a step back, son…the government doesn't have a REVENUE problem..the governement has a SPENDING problem..BIG difference…

  8. Anonymous says:

    Excellent commentary – glad to see some of the misinformation being dispelled and the xanples of SMC at work in Cayman for the betterment of the constituents!