In a report released this week, election observers from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association British Islands and Mediterranean Region made 21 recommendations to improve the voting process in the Cayman Islands. Their observations, especially those concerning suffrage and campaign finance, deserve serious consideration. Of particular note, the observers took issue with the obvious – the unequal weight of voters depending on the districts in which they reside. For example, East End’s 692 registered voters have a disproportionately greater impact in their district’s elections than, say, the 1,513 registered voters in Bodden Town East. The Sister Islands are also way out of balance. Observers also voiced concerns about lengthy residency requirements for voters – even those of Caymanian status – and the exclusion of permanent residents from voting. This is the junction at which voting rights and human rights oftentimes collide. But some of the most troubling shortcomings found by observers are in the area of campaign finance.
Unfortunately, the loose and permissive language of the laws governing campaign contributions calls into question the seriousness of legislative intent to ensure a free, fair and transparent process that is impervious to undue influence. For example:
Campaign contributions are only reportable between Nomination Day and Election Day, leaving the door open for donors to make confidential political contributions before the reporting window “officially opens.” That’s a loophole big enough for a Brink’s truck to drive through undetected
No financial disclosure statements are due to be filed before the election, denying voters material information that might inform their choices at the polls. Even though candidates are required to file campaign finance statements post-election, those reports are not required to be audited or otherwise verified.