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Election processes under review

 

Tad Stoner

Thursday 12th May, 2005   Posted: 15:44 CIT   (20:44 GMT)

Election supervisor Kearney Gomez met yesterday with the governor and attorney–general for a post–poll appraisal, and said his office would review the rules about the exclusion zones surrounding each polling place.

“The laws are a bit archaic in that area,” he said, referring to the 300–foot exclusion zones around each polling station.

No media are allowed to enter the zone, to take any photographs or speak to voters within the 300–foot limit, which confused not only reporters seeking to cover Wednesday’s elections, but also some of the on–site security officers.

“We will have to do a post–poll appraisal and address these issues,” he said. “We run an open–door policy, and if you create suspicion, where people cannot see what’s going on, then you get into problems,” he said.

This had to be balanced with an individual’s right to privacy when they vote, but this was likely to be one of the issues under discussion today with top officials.

“In our meeting with the governor and attorney–general, we will highlight how peaceful the whole election process was. In 30 years, we have had no incidents at the polls. We never have had to arrest anyone.

“This is a significant record worldwide, especially in the Caribbean where you often get violence after voting and inter–party violence.”

Voter turnout

He said that voter turnout had been approximately two per cent less than in 2000 for several reasons.

“A number of people were disillusioned,” he said. “I had expected a higher turnout, but the primary reason, I think, is that people are trying to rebuild their lives. They are in a sort of recovery mode, dealing with post–Ivan stress syndrome.”

Holidays mean people stay at home, either to rest or to do house repairs.

Mr. Gomez himself said he had been living in a garage, and that each free moment was spent in reconstruction and recovery.

The earthquake that followed on the heels of Ivan also contributed to the low turnout.

“No one expected that, and it threw the whole island into turmoil. Everyone panicked,” he said.

It was also the first time Cayman had held elections in the summer. The heat, he said, discouraged people.

“We had to assess people at the George Town Primary and other schools, for example,” Mr. Gomez said. “It was four degrees hotter than hell, and there is no way you can have geriatrics and the handicapped standing out there, never mind regular voters.”

Officials erected tents to create shaded areas, and pointed out that, in the past, elections had been staged in November.

“No one wanted to brave the heat,” he said.

He said that in the next two weeks, his office would examine several changes to future elections.

“There will be a number of recommendations in our post–poll appraisal about how best to improve the system,” he said.

“We will look at moving to electronic polling as opposed to paper balloting,” he said. “We will also look at single–member constituencies and take into consideration the demographics .”

He specifically cited Bodden Town as an area of significant demographic change.

“Bodden Town and San Pedro are among Cayman’s fastest–growing districts,” he said, “and we need proportional representation, more representation in that area,” he said.

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