Now is not the time for One Man, One Vote
Over the past several months there has been much discussion and debate in relation to the One Man, One Vote (OMOV). While writing this article, I had to first understand and figure out why so much emphasis was being focused on the matter now. I concluded that over the past several years, many people of the Cayman Islands have become disgruntled and unsatisfied with politics and the representation of our elected officials, and in some cases I have to agree with them.
Some of our elected officials have not lived up to the expectations that we would have expected. So it is understandable that persons would want a system or some form of change to get better representation.
However, simply looking at OMOV from the view that it promises more accountability, equality and better representation in my opinion is misleading. Personally I do not like guns or use drugs, but I’d like to use two simple illustrations on them. Guns do not kill people, its people that use guns that kill. Drugs don’t destroy people’s lives, its people that manufacture and sell drugs that ruin people lives. Similarly, a system (OMOV) alone cannot promise better accountability or representation; it is the responsibility of an individual, a representative to provide great leadership. Now I am not saying that OMOV could not help facilitate this in some way, what I am saying is, a system alone is not the answer to our desire for better government representation. It is more so an individual mindset and work ethic that will accomplish this.
After doing my own research, I found that some form of Multi-Member Constituent/Districts (MMD) still exist in many democratic countries today. Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man (according to Wikipedia), which all have a slightly larger population than Cayman still use both MMD and Single-Member Constituent (SMC). To me this signifies the system to use is unique to each country/district and we should not merely suggest that SMC works for us just because other countries use it.
After deep thought on the matter, some of the areas that concern me the most about OMOV are as follows:
1. Under SMC I feel we will get less representation. For example, if one constituent has 1,000 voters, let’s say Candidate #1 receives 300 votes, Candidate #2 receives 250 votes, Candidate #3 receives 225 votes and Candidate #4 receives 225 also. Candidate #1 would win by obtaining more votes individually. However, the 700 voters (70%) that did not vote for Candidate #1 are somewhat un-represented. The other concern is 100-200 of those voters that Candidate #1 got could potentially be family and close friends alone. Remember, a representative is supposed to represent the majority, however how can you truly represent the majority if only a handfull of people elected you? MMD promotes a more diverse roster of candidates, you will more than likely have someone within the bunch that can relate to your needs and concerns and therefore represent you. According to this link below, there is a good deal of evidence to suggest that women are less likely to be elected under a SMC regime. Why would we want a system that puts women at a disadvantage of being elected? Especially knowing that a group of women in Cayman stood for their right in the 40’s and 50’s and demanded that they be allowed to vote and stand for election in Cayman.
2. Under a SMC regime, boundaries would constantly have to change due to the change in population. We would find Bodden Town for example, the fastest growing district, constantly changing boundary lines each election or census, resulting in voters being moved from one constituent to another and causing confusion over polling locations. I have read several articles within the US where several states are having heated debates, even taking matters to court trying to decide how to divide boundary lines. In Hawaii last year, it was proposed to re-implement MMD and although it did not pass, it raised a concern that it has become problematic to constantly shuffle boundary lines. It should also be highlighted that SMC has proved in other parts of the world and potentially in Cayman, to become a political problem, as there will be politicians wanting to influence how the boundaries are divided.
3. According to the Electoral Boundary Commission Report 2010 (EBCR), it stated that “several” attendees to the meetings were concerned about the cost of the 3 additional MLA’s that would be implemented in 2013. On June 15th 2012, The Caymanian Compass also published a survey where persons were not in agreement of the 3 extra seats because of the additional cost. The EBCR and the Caymanian Compass survey showed that our people are concerned about the cost of public spending, which they should be. However, sadly to say the cost of the 3 extra members should not be the only concern. We need to also consider the cost for implementing SMC; will a board or committee overseeing the Electoral boundaries be compensated? What about the cost in having the boundaries redrawn ever so often? Last year, Hawaii spent US$664,000 in redrawing district boundaries. Just recently in Minnesota and Kansas, it cost the respective state governments $628,000 and $614,000 to settle a boundary redrawing dispute in the courts.
This could potentially, be an ongoing cost for the Cayman Islands as the population grows, a cost we simply cannot afford. Despite what others think, people WILL want certain amenities, such as parks, within their own constituents. I have seen signs of this first hand and residents WILL pressure their politicians to cater to them, which in turn will increase the cost of government.
As we can see, our government is currently indebted over $600m and finding it hard to balance our budget each year. Where there is an increase in services there are only two options you have, increase fees (taxes) or make cuts. The additional cost from SMC, whether it is from implementation, court disputes or constituent amenities will only make the cost of living more difficult and bring more pressure and hardship on the many families that are already struggling today. The other option would be to cut jobs or cut services, which would only be more detrimental. I know some persons will feel there is no cost for true democracy. But to say we currently do not have real democracy is again misleading; Thank God we have the freedom to vote and we have seen governments changed in the last 3 elections. To me that shows the people have spoken and will continue to speak under MMD.
I am at the realization that time changes and so do things, however, I can confidently say that I do not support OMOV coming into effect for 2013, as I feel it will be a financial strain on the country and will potentially bring a number of issues with it. I would be more open to supporting it when our public finances are in better shape and we are more educated on it. We have to take our time to figure out exactly how it is going to work, be implemented and affect us. I have spoken to quite a bit of young people about OMOV and the sense I get is many are not educated about it. We need to do a proper informative campaign on OMOV and not shove it down people’s throats.
I have said several times before, the party system is not the problem, nor is MMD the problem with our politics. The solution is we must elect better persons, individuals with strong characters, persons who really understand what it is to serve, representatives who understand what accountability is and have high moral and ethical standards, persons who are great role models both publicly and privately, giving our citizens role models to look up to and aspire to follow. Cayman does have such candidates, but many of those persons shy away from politics.
In closing, I truly feel there are genuine supporters of OMOV lobbying for its implementation, however what concerns me and should also concern the people of the Cayman Islands the most, are those out there that are trying to push it through purely for political gain and their dislike for the current government and its leader, not taking into account the effects OMOV will have on the Cayman Islands financially and socially for years to come.
We have several issues in Cayman that we need to address, financially, socially, jobs and educating our people to name a few, but now is Not the Time for One Man, One Vote.
I leave you with a partial statement from a letter that Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia wrote to Members of Congress in 1995:
“My bill would modify a 1967 statute that requires single-member districts in order to allow states to adopt multi-member districts for congressional elections using one of three modified at-large voting systems: limited voting, cumulative voting and preference voting. Modified at-large systems would promote fair representation for voters of all races, increase representation of women and increase voter participation and at the same time, avoid requiring states to face the high costs of drawing single-member district lines and handling legal challenges to plans.”
Richard Christian is President of the Young United Democratic Party
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The comments posted do not necessarily reflect the views of CNS or any individual staff member. All comments are posted subject to approval by CNS. Read more
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