Focus On: July 18 Referendum in Cayman Islands

July 26, 2012, 6:05 p.m.

On July 18, citizens of the Cayman Islands went to the polls to vote in a historic referendum that asked them the question: “Do you support an electoral system of single-member constituencies with each elector being entitled to cast only one vote?” ((Fuller, Brent. “Referendum Day.” CayCompass.com. 18 July 2012.)) By voting in favor of this statement, citizens of the Cayman Islands would choose to change their current electoral system of multimember constituencies. ((Cayman Netnews. “Referendum Day in the Cayman Islands.” 18 July 2012.))

The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory with a parliamentary democracy system. As a British overseas territory, the chief of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who has been represented by her appointed Governor Duncan Taylor since January 2012. The head of government is the Premier, who is appointed by the governor after a political party wins the majority of seats in the Legislative Assembly and recommends an individual from that party for the position. Currently, the Cayman Islands’ Premier is McKeeva Bush. The Cayman Islands has a unicameral Legislative Assembly consisting of 18 seats where legislators serve for four year terms. Three of the members of the Legislative Assembly are appointed ex officio and the other 15 members are elected by block vote. ((Election Guide Digest. “Country Profile: Cayman Islands.” 23 July 2012.))

Background surrounding the referendum

Premier Bush promised to hold a referendum on the issue of single member constituencies in conjunction with the general election in May of 2013. ((Search Engine for Direct Democracy "Cayman Islands, 18 July 2012: Election in one constituency” 23 July 2012.)) However, calls for a referendum on the issue were started in February by a grassroots movement known as the One Man One Vote (OMOV) Committee. The group spearheaded a campaign to change the electoral system in advance of the 2013 elections. ((Markoff, Alan. “One Person One Vote Referendum in July.” CayCompass.com 12 April 2012.)) The group began collecting the required 3,800 signatures of registered voters in order to force the issue. However, as the group was reaching the 3,000 signatures-mark, Premier Bush announced in April that citizens would head to the polls to weigh in on the issue. ((Search Engine for Direct Democracy "Cayman Islands, 18 July 2012: Election in one constituency” 23 July 2012.))  Mr. Bush announced that the referendum would take place on July 18 and he also made it clear that the rules for this referendum would follow the requirements of people-initiated referendums versus the more ambiguous terms of a government-initiated vote. ((According to the constitution, when a referendum is initiated by the government there is no required percentage that makes the vote binding.)) According to the terms of the people-initiated referendum, in order for the results of this referendum to be deemed “binding” and to change the Cayman Islands electoral system, it would have to garner at least 7,582 votes in favor, which would mean being approved by 50 % plus one of the total registered voters. ((Fuller, Brent. “Referendum Day.” CayCompass.com. 18 July 2012.))

Election Day

Polls were open from at 7am until 6pm, with a total of 57.23% of the Cayman Islands 15,161 registered voters casting a ballot on the ‘One Person One Vote’ issue. ((Elections Office “Referendum 2012 Count.” 18 July 2012.)) All of the country’s electoral districts favored passing the referendum except for West Bay where the “No” vote narrowly won by 26 votes. ((Elections Office “Referendum 2012 Count.” 18 July 2012.)) Citizens of the Cayman Islands did approve the referendum with a total of 5,631 in favor and only 3,001 opposed. Despite the fact that roughly 64 percent of voters approved the change, the results of the referendum are non-binding.

Aftermath of the Vote

When the official results were announced, Mr. Bush stated that the results of the referendum would not be considered as advisory. Rather, he argued that the results were truly a victory for the “no” side. He argued that the vast majority of the country’s registered voters had stated their opposition to the referendum by either voting “no” at the polls or not voting at all. ((Walter, Keith “Premier: Results Will Not Be Held as Advisory.” Cayman 27. 19 July 2012.))

Nevertheless, proponents of the referendum do not see the “non-binding” results of the referendum as a loss. Rather, it was seen as a victory that more voters came out in favor of single member constituencies. As a comment stated on the OMOV Committee official Facebook page, “…although the results are advisable and not binding… This is a win for the people in the sense that the majority of those that chose to cast their ballot said YES!” ((“One Man One Vote” Facebook  19 July 2012.))


comments powered by Disqus