By Charles Duncan
A complaint to the Human Rights Commission and elections observers say residency rules are unduly restrictive.
Cayman elections law says voters must live on island for at least two of the last four years in order to be eligible to vote. Marvel Ebanks filed a complaint with the Cayman Islands Human Rights Commission in September challenging the residency rules on constitutional and human rights grounds.
Steve Rodan, who headed the election observer mission, said in a recent press conference that the residency requirement “appears to us to be overly restrictive and may operate to exclude otherwise eligible Caymanians from exercising their right to vote.”
He said he didn’t know of any other jurisdictions with such stringent residency restrictions.
Mr. Rodan, the president of the parliament for the Isle of Man, said Cayman’s lawmakers should look to update the law.
In an email to elections observers and the media, Ms. Ebanks said she “feels that the right to vote is such a sacred right that the Cayman Islands Government should not put a tether on Caymanians attempting to not let them travel too far for too long, and effectively say that government’s work permit approvals appear to favour non-Caymanians.”
She continued: “This thereby forces Caymanians overseas to another country to find a job, and then the Cayman Islands Government attempts to punish the Caymanian yet again by stripping them of their right to vote.”
Ms. Ebanks compared Cayman’s law to larger countries. The United Kingdom, she writes, “permits overseas voting for its citizens who live outside of the UK for up to 15 years, which was changed from 20 years. In addition, the United States allows Americans to vote by absentee ballot until they die, even if they never return to the States.”
She argues that the problem for overseas Caymanian voters is widespread. “There are literally thousands of Caymanians who are similarly situated and have left the Cayman Islands in order to find employment in another country because they were unable to find employment in their own homeland,” she writes.
The Human Rights Commission agreed earlier this year that the residency requirements may violate the European Convention on Human Rights, which Cayman is party to through the U.K.