Voter equality recommended

| 23/07/2013

(CNS): The final report on the May General Election by a mission of international observers has called on Cayman to implement equal suffrage for voters. Pointing to the principle of “one person one vote or equal number of votes”, the observer team said Cayman should make voting more fair. The report recommends a change to the law to stop numbering ballot papers to protect voting secrecy and also suggested reducing the period of residency in Cayman before an elector can register to vote. The required period of residency for candidates prior to the date of nomination should also be reduced, they said, and the legal definition of ‘own act’ clarified in relation to dual citizenship – both issues on which Tara Rivers' election was challenged.

The final report was released by the governor’s office on Tuesday and largely gave Cayman the thumbs up for the May 2013 General Elections, which the observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association said met the international standards for democratic, genuine and transparent elections.

The mission found that the campaign allowed different opinions to be expressed freely and the voting and counting process on Election Day were conducted very well. The high voter turnout was also described as a positive sign. The observers said the Elections Office acted in an impartial and transparent manner and demonstrated a high level of professional competence, and from the technical point of view, the elections were very well prepared and administered.

However, the team made a number of recommendations to improve even further what is already a good system. As well as equal suffrage and reductions in the restrictions on candidates and voters, they also recommended establishing an independent election management body with independent budgetary financing, which could further increase the public confidence in the election process.

Following their examination of campaign expenses, the observers recommended a review of the current limits on spending and clarity on the definition of election expenses, as well as addressing the law so candidates could provide reasonable refreshments at campaign meetings. 

The report further recommends that voters should not have to state their occupation when presenting themselves to vote and to consider mobile voting for those electors hospitalised after the deadline for application for mobile voting. The group proposed establishing an institute of domestic observers that was independent form the Election Office, with clearly defined rights, responsibilities and accreditation requirements to increase public oversight and confidence in the election process.

It was also suggested that government make an amendment to the Elections Law to remove the requirement that ballot papers contain serial numbers. This, the observers said, would guarantee the right to vote in secret. “Alternative means of protecting the integrity of the ballot, such as the use of bar codes or embossing techniques could be explored instead,” the report stated.

The major recommendations by the mission, such as one man one vote and the issue regarding dual citizenship and residency requirements, are all particularly topical, given the challenge to Tara Rivers election to West Bay.

“Reducing the required period of residency of candidates in the Cayman Islands prior to the date of nomination would open up the universal right to stand for elective office to a larger number of otherwise qualified citizens,”the report said, as it highlighted what was believed to be an unreasonable requirement and one which is at the heart of the challenge made by john Hewitt  to Rivers' qualification to run for office.

“A clear legal definition of 'his/her own act' in relation to other citizenship could bring more clarity for the Elections Office when deciding on eligibility of candidates, as well as for potential candidates when deciding whether to contest elections,” the observers add in their recommendation. The issue of clarity has been tested by Rivers' legal team, who insisted that the law allows her to keep and use her American passport, which was acquired by birth and has not required an act of allegiance to a foreign power.

The recommendation for equality in the vote is expected to be addressed by the new government, who were elected to office on a mandate of introducing one man one vote.

Although the observers made fourteen recommendations, the report was a positive reflection on the general election, which they said met international standards. 

“The overall conduct of voting operations was assessed by the EOM observers as very good or good in all polling stations,” the report stated. “The procedures were followed, polling staff was generally well trained and polling agents representing different candidates were present in all polling stations. The counting procedures were followed, votes were counted in a transparent manner in the presence of counting agents representing different candidates and no recount was requested.”

The mission also found that the election campaign "was conducted in a peaceful atmosphere, candidates were able to campaign freely and voters were able to receive sufficient information to make an informed choice. The fundamental rights and freedoms, such as freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of movement were respected at all times.”

The new elections supervisor, Wesley Howell, said the report would be considered and discussed with all relevant stakeholders.

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  1. sickntired says:

    Good timing for release to try and lend support to ms rivers, but little too late constitution is what it is currently!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    I fully support some of the recommendations that are being made especially with regards to the equality of voting. I am a George Town voter and I find it ridiculous that East End and North Side can send a representative to the Legislative Assembly with 317 and 326 votes respectively.

    If I was to take the votes gained by those 2 gentlemen, combined them, and double them they would NOT have enough votes to get a seat in my district of George Town, Bodden Town, or even West Bay. The same applies to Julie and Moses in Cayman Brac. Double their votes and they still would not get a seat in none of the other electoral districts.

    I hope this new government not only keep their promise of bringing in OMOV but ensure that there is equality of votes in the process. If not, human rights…here I come. I want equality. 

    • and another ting says:

      who cares about OMOV at a critical time of high unemployment and possibly more to come.  Gt real people, get real Messrs. Progressives., talk is cheap.

    • Anonymous says:

      Those two gentlemen were worth double the other MLAs in the last four years. There is no point in comparing the raw numbers, you must compare percentages. If they were running in those districts they would also win a seat.   

  3. Anonymous says:

    Nominations should include an affidavit that the candidate knows of no reason why they might not be eligible to run and that they beleive themselves to be eligible.  Anyone who tries to hide their lack of eligibility would then be committing perjury.  Might have avoid the post-election problems this time.

    • Power of the People says:

      I assume you are referring to the issues surrounding Tara Rivers? One thing you should consider in your comment is that she has not broken any laws and the fact that she has a US passport is not an issue. What actually needs to happen, is that the law needs to be clarified as it is vague at best and subject to interpretation and debate. There is no perjury here. She read it one way – which is not wrong – and her opposers read it another – which is not wrong.

      She simply needs to evidence that her personal circumstances have complied with what she thought to be the interpretation. Simple. By her intrepretation, they do.

      So signing an affidavit will do no more for the election process than create more paperwork until the law is clarified – which is exactly what is about to happen. One way or the other.

      • Anonymous says:

        Really?  She read "working" as "studying" and "absent" as "meaning something other than not being here".  I would think the affidavit proposal would have made a difference.

      • Anonymous says:

        My friend 11:42


        The law should be clear cut, which  should have  no space for interpretation or abiguity. After all,  the men and women  that write the laws, are supposed to be the highest educated people in  the world…this does say much in their favor ….does it?

        This only proves what the people have been saying all along. The laws were not made to define justice. It was created thousands of years ago to separate the educated from the peasants …. the poor.

        This case should never had ended up in the court house. It was clear to the returning officer,that the young lady pocessed an American passport, and she never resided in the Cayman Island for the period of 7 years prior to nomination day.

        When observing our neighbors. There were 9 Jamaicans that wanted to enter politics in their country. They never questioned ofr fought their constituation laws. 9 of them renounced their US citizenship, and ran for political  office..that says alot about that nation…doesnt it??  

        • Anonymous says:

          So says one who has no concept about the law or that different competent lawyers can interpret the same law differently.  

      • Anonymous says:

        I am more inclined to think she had fingers crossed when she filed her nomination.  It is sad really because the effect of her removal will be to gift one more seat to the UDP.

  4. Anonymous says:

    So now they see the flaws. Too bad they're 4 years late! It is what it is, until CHANGED, the rules apply as we wanted. The paid experts who drafted this, had the time AND resources to have it properly reviewed when THEY submitted it to the people for a vote! We voted. Case closed!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Allowing residents of 5 or 7 years to vote would have a massive inclusive effect on Cayman and reduce the them/us divide.  It would also reduce the effectiveness of corrupt practices at election (just because of numbers not because any one type of person is more amenable to influence, before anyone gets over sensitive).  Sadly two rather basic sentiments fear and a love of power/control mean that this will need to be imposed externally if it is ever to happen.  Saying that this report is a good start for the argument.  I don't see Jersey falling to pieces because it allows people to vote more liberally than Cayman.

    • Anonymous says:

      Including status holders in the 2013 election already had a massive inclusive effect. You should appreciate that instead of grasping for more power so soon. Your comments re love of control are ironic. That is the real reason why some wish to have the franchise extended so that, because of greater numbers, they can gain control rather than the native population. Giving work permit holders the right to vote is out of the question. God help us if that should happen.    

    • Whodatis says:

      You are amazing.

    • Anonymous says:

      Who's more corrupt than your country ? and who has the money to corrupt.?

  6. Anonymous says:

    All good stuff.


    Just one more suggestion, cut the number of MLAs from 18 to 9.


    This  would be a significant cost saving measure.MLAs are not repsonsible for the day to day running of the government, they are responsible for high level strategy that should be implemented by the government technocrats. Nine qualified and ethical MLAs should be able to handle the task and do a good job.

    • Anonymous says:

      Qualified and ethical, yes that would probably work, but what if the electorate nominated people like the last lot! There wouldnt be much room for opposition with those numbers. One of the problems of the Cayman system is the lopsided house that can arise with multiple voting, so at least if that changed you might get away with fewer.