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Electoral reform law expected in first half of the year

Supervisor of Elections Wesley Howell said this week he expects changes to the Elections Law, paving the way for the introduction of 19 single-member constituencies, to be brought before the Legislative Assembly by June.

“Law change recommendations are now being prepared for submission to Cabinet,” Mr Howell stated in an email to questions posed by Cayman Weekly. “It is hoped that amendments to the Elections law will be debated in the LA during the first half of 2016."

In an interview with this publication last week, McKeeva Bush, the leader of the Cayman Democratic Party voiced his scepticism about whether there is enough time between now and when the country returns to the polls in May next year.

“I have yet to see whether this change can come about in the timeframe that we have left,” Mr Bush said. “It’s a lot of preparation to take place in this whole change, there’s public relations and public education that needs to take place. So let’s wait and see.”

However, the Supervisor of Elections said that timeline “will allow sufficient time for implementation” and training of electoral staff ahead of the vote. He said mixed media voter education will start as soon as the law is approved.

Mr Howell said he plans to have the deputy returning officers to join the existing returning officers to total 19, one for each single-member constituency. “We will also require staff for an additional polling division,” he said.

“It is expected that staffing increase will be modest unless we have large numbers of persons registering between now and 2017.”

In the meantime, the elections boss said “we are encouraging voter registration at the Elections Office during working hours and in the community starting with a booth at the Agricultural Show on 10 February”.

Questions sent to Premier Alden McLaughlin about when is the latest he reasonably expects to bring the recommended changes before the Legislative Assembly remained unanswered at the time of publication.

Legislators, in October, overwhelmingly supported a motion to accept the recommendations of the Electoral Boundaries Commission (EBC) to introduce 19 single-member electoral districts or constituencies. This breaks away from the more than century-old hybrid system that varies the number of candidates a person can vote for based on which district they live in.

In addition to breaking the country into all single-member constituencies, another seat has been added in George Town. Going forward, instead of voting for six representatives at the last election, voters in the capital will only be allowed to elect one member of the Legislative Assembly. The new constituencies in the most populous district will be: George Town North, George Town Central, George Town South, George Town West, George Town East, Red Bay and Prospect.

Bodden Town, Cayman’s historic capital and fastest growing district will be split into: Savannah, Newlands, Bodden Town West and Bodden Town East.

The West Bay electoral districts will be: West Bay East, West Bay West, West Bay Central and West Bay South. Meantime, the Sister Islands will divided into Little Cayman and Cayman Brac East, and Cayman Brac – moving away from the entire electorate on both islands having the chance to vote for two people to represent them in the Legislative Assembly.

North Side and East End, historically the only districts to elect one legislator each, will remain as they have been over the years.

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