Opinion: Voters still disenfranchised, constitution should be amended | Loop Cayman Islands

The content originally appeared on: Cayman Compass

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by ‘Concerned Citizen’

A lot of attention has been given to the constitution of the Cayman Islands recently, mainly due to its mention in the Bernie Bush debacle and the Dubai Expo scandal. The image being depicted here, at least in one case, is that where the relevant provisions are being enforced, it is being done in the public interest. Enforcement is a funny thing, however, as there are still some parts of the constitution that, in my opinion, when enforced, may result in unfairness and harm to the very people it is designed to assist.

One example of this how voters are routinely disenfranchised by the provisions of the constitution. Regarding this, the constitution says that “any person who is registered as an elector in an electoral district shall, while so registered, be entitled to vote at any election in that district for an elected member of the Parliament, unless he or she is prohibited from so voting by any law in force in the Cayman Islands.” The highlight here is the reference to any law that may be prohibit a person from voting.

In this case, the enforcement of provisions of the Elections Act can sometimes result in a person becoming ineligible as a voter. Such ineligibility to vote may happen because a voter’s name is not placed on the register for an electoral district by the voter registration deadline. While a registration deadline of some sort is logical, I do not think that it is logical to set the deadline to several months before the election date. Instead, all eligible persons should be allowed to register to vote up until a day or a week before the scheduled election date. An amendment to the Elections Act may be needed in this regard.

Another way that a person may be deemed ineligible to have his or name on the voter registration list is where an officer from the elections office or a registered voter in any electoral district files an objection to someone’s name being on the voter registration list. Such formal objections are normally done on the basis that the elections officer or registered voter believes that a registered voter does not actually live in the electoral district where he or she is registered. Other objections are made on the basis that the Caymanian voter is no longer ordinarily resident in Cayman simply because he or she has been working outside the Cayman Islands for a long period.

It would seem to me that, once a person is Caymanian and registered to vote, they should never be removed from the voter registration list, even if they have been absent from Cayman for a long time. To prohibit a Caymanian from voting just because of their absence from Cayman, well, seems unfair.

A similar “absence” rule is applicable under the constitution where someone wishes to be a candidate for elections. Unless the person is on government business, at school, a patient at a hospital overseas, employed as a seaman or as a crew member on any aircraft, his or her absence from Cayman for more than 400 days will be deemed unacceptable under the constitution, making them ineligible as a political candidate.

Having witnessed how these rules have negatively impacted Caymanians in the past, the people should consider starting a people’s initiated referendum to change outdated provisions of the constitution. In my mind, some level of urgency should be attached to this, along with amendments to allow voters to remove non-performing members of Parliament. Whether or not this will be done, however, may hinge on whether the issues are “sexy” enough for debate , marches or even a mention.