As of the date when this issue of The Cayman Reporter is published on Wednesday, Jan. 11, those eligible to vote but not yet on the elector roll will have just five days to register. If they do not register by Tuesday, Jan, 16 they will be unable to vote in the May 24, 2017 General Elections.
This election is a historic one, as it marks the first time in the Cayman Islands that each voter will have only one vote under the new One Man One Vote system and also introduces 19 new Single Member Constituencies.
For those who have not yet registered to vote, what is stopping them? And for those who intend not to vote, what is making them opt out? For some, it is the belief that their single vote will not make a difference. For others, it is to register their disgust with politics.
Whatever the cause may be, the outcome is unfortunate. Disproportionately, this kind of voter apathy affects those who are the most dissatisfied with the status quo. The young, the poor, the unemployed, the marginalized.
Many of these groups see no hope in being involved in the political process. They have no belief in a system that they see as having failed them. However, in a Western-style democracy, which Cayman is modeled upon, you cannot effect change outside of the system. Revolution, such as it is, must occur from within.
This means that to change your situation, you must become involved. At the very least, this entails casting your vote. Apathy is defined as: lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern.
The effects of opting out, or even of complacency were underscored in two very larger than life ways in 2016.
First, we had the surprise result of Brexit. While overall voter turnout was high at about 72 percent, the younger voters, who were largely for the Remain campaign, had a much lower turnout at an estimated 36 percent. And the final tally was close. Leave won about 52 percent of the vote and Remain won about 48 percent. What would have happened if those who didn’t turn up to vote had instead cast a ballot?
Then we had the tumult of a Trump win in the U.S. Presidential race. Most observers in the U.K. and the U.S. respectively did not expect either outcome.
And the results in both cases can be partially laid at the feet of those who did not vote. In Brexit, while the result shocked many, perhaps it was the complacency of those who did not make the effort to vote who were to blame.
And in the U.S., more than 90 million people did not vote at all in the presidential election. That is an estimated 48 percent of the eligible voting population. Almost half of them did not even vote.
And in the U.S., this discrepancy led to another development that had non-Americans (and we are sure some Americans too) scratching their heads. Hillary Clinton actually won the popular vote in the country as a whole. By a whopping 2.5 million votes. However, due to Trump’s victory in key swing states with high numbers of Electoral College votes, he won the presidency over the most popular candidate.
In some key states, low Democratic voter turnout could be to blame, including Michigan and Wisconsin.
Perhaps if those people who had opted out had voted, the outcomes would have been vastly different. Although we do not know for sure, there have been very public examples of “buyer’s remorse” in both cases. In Britain, many called for a new referendum. And Scotland once again threatened to withdraw from the union that is the U.K. over the issue. In the U.S., members of the Electoral College refused to vote for Trump based on their own conscience and publicly disavowed the President-Elect.
So, there has been significant and staunch opposition to both results in two of the largest and most visible Western democracies in the world.
In Cayman, our politics are on a much smaller scale. In fact, very few residents of the Cayman Islands are eligible to vote, given the stringent requirements. Which makes it all the more vital that we have a high turnout in May. Our one vote each is precious and valuable. It is our one tool to have a say and make a difference.
We have heard some of the disenfranchised in our local community, primarily the young, saying that they will not vote as it is a waste of time. That nothing will change. That Cayman is not for them anymore.
If you are dissatisfied with the status quo, use your right to vote to change it. If you are unhappy with the current public education system, or immigration policy, or employment opportunities, or any issue that is important to you, vote for the candidate who you think will change it.
Band together with the likeminded in your electoral district and effect change. Always remember that once you vote, whichever candidate is elected in your district is answerable to you. If we don’t vote, we don’t have a say. If you don’t participate, your voice is not heard. So be sure not to silence your own voice. Register to vote by Jan. 16. And vote on May 24.