Election observers advise Cayman to review voter restrictions

Monday, July 17, 2017

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GEORGE TOWN, Cayman Islands (CMC) — The Cayman Islands Government has been urged to make changes to restrictions on voters and widen the franchise to include long term residents.

Observers who watched the election earlier this year – in their final report on the mission -- made several recommendations about improving the secrecy of the ballot in some areas, better compliance with human rights and international standards as well as review of equity and representation.

Nonetheless, the election got overall thumbs up from the observers.

They commended the Elections Office on the management of the polls in general and the fact that they managed a complete overhaul of the electoral system in a matter of months rather than the benchmark of at least one year.

The observers also took note of several issues relating to the law and the Constitution that don't meet international norms or accepted human rights regarding democratic principles.

The observers, in their report, said there were several complaints about long-term residents being unable to vote, and said that in light of the mobility of the population and the contribution made by the diverse expatriate community, consideration should be given to including residents in the franchise.

They also questioned the duration of residence requirements for both voters and candidates, and advised a change in the time-span people must be in Cayman before elections.

“The requirement that voters must be resident for at least two of the four years immediately preceding registration should be reviewed, as it appears excessive,” the observers stated.

They also raised concerns that the publication of personal data of voters as part of the process of revision and dissemination of the voter register may encroach upon the individual right to privacy, and said voters should not be required to state their occupation when presenting themselves to vote.

Another issue is that of restrictions being placed on prisoners voting – the observers said this is counter to international standards, as is the ability of the Elections Office to block people with serious mental health problems from voting.

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