The criteria for determining a person’s eligibility to stand for election or to vote are called ‘qualifications’ and ‘disqualifications’. Every country sets its own requirements for what qualifies individuals to stand for election (as a candidate) and to register as an elector (a person who is legally allowed to vote). These requirements determine which individuals can participate in political activities, and usually exclude persons where a conflict of interest may be present.
Historically in countries around the world these criteria may have been used to determine which persons are considered “valid” contributors to local society. At various times in different jurisdictions, including the Cayman Islands, eligibility criteria have excluded groups such as slaves, women, racial and ethnic minorities, indigent persons and the illiterate (Plaxton & Lardy, 2010, p. 101) from standing for election and/or from voting in elections. In Cayman, as in many democracies, these exclusions have eventually been phased out because they are seen as unjust and discriminatory.
Some famous cases which illustrate the removal of restrictions on standing for election or becoming registered as an elector (known also as ‘universal suffrage’) include:
Often the criteria for standing for election and the criteria for voting in an election have mirrored each other. In general, eligibility requirements usually focus on age, citizenship, residency status, and duration and means of residency and/or citizenship.
The qualifications and disqualifications for elected membership in Cayman can be found in sections 61 and 62 of the Cayman Islands Constitution Order, 2009 (“the Constitution”), and qualifications and disqualifications of electors can be found in sections 90 and 91 of the Constitution.
In Cayman, qualifications of elected membership include complex requirements that should be read in the original form as outlined in section 61 of the Constitution. However, some of these requirements are that a candidate for election is:
Disqualifications are also complex and should be read in the original form as outlined in section 62 of the Constitution.
Do you agree or disagree with these criteria? What would you add or remove, and why?
Ms Mary Evelyn Wood (b. 1900, d. 1978) had a long history of service to her community, beginning with her career as a school teacher in her 20s, and going on to gain training as a practical nurse operating primarily as a community midwife.
One of Ms Wood’s most significant achievements was becoming the first woman elected to the legislature in 1962 representing the district of Bodden Town. She was also the first woman to serve on a jury. Ms Wood was an active member of the National Democratic Party (NDP) along with founding members Warren Conolly and Ormond Panton. When she was elected women had recently gained the right to vote and stand for elections in Cayman in 1959, and the NDP’s platform targeted primarily non-white Caymanians and the newly enfranchised women (Craton, 2003, p. 316). Ms Wood’s deep involvement in the community through her job and charitable work with the church made her a strong asset for the NDP, and undoubtedly contributed to her election in 1962.
Whilst Ms Wood was not re-elected in the next election in 1965, another woman was – Ms Annie Huldah Bodden, who served for several years. Historian Michael Craton notes that the 1959 constitution permitted universal suffrage (ibid., p. 310) allowing women the right to vote and stand for election, however, the struggle for women to gain the right to stand for election and to vote had begun many years earlier.
Craton cites a letter that 24 women from George Town sent to the Commissioner in 1948 stating that “having examined and obtained Legal advice on the Constitution of the Cayman Islands, [we] find nothing therein which denies women the fundamental Human Right of taking part in deciding who shall govern us”. At that time voters and persons eligible to be members of the Vestry (now known as the Legislative Assembly) were exclusively Caymanian male tax-payers aged 18-60, though Craton notes that some men in this demographic, such as actively serving seamen, were prohibited from voting by other measures (ibid., p. 474, n. 11).
Accounts of Ms Wood indicate that she was a practical, community-oriented individual whose passion for improving society cemented her memorialisation in Cayman’s historical canon. Prior to her death Ms Wood was recognised for her efforts in 1965 when she received the Cayman Islands Certificate and Badge of Honour; she was further recognised posthumously with the designation of national hero in 2011.
Reading more about Ms Wood’s life provides an excellent opportunity to learn about voting and standing for election in Cayman. Recommended reading materials include Founded Upon the Seas: A History of the Cayman Islands and their People (Craton, 2003), as well as other historical news media, oral history transcripts and publications available through the Cayman Islands National Archive (view the CINA website for information to make an appointment).
A range of regional and global organisations provide information on and advocate for fairness of the rights of citizens to vote and stand for election. Some of these include:
Age Group: upper-secondary school students
Purpose: to raise the awareness amongst youth about the importance of voting, and different ways to vote, eliciting meaningful dialogues about politics and democratic participation.
Materials: three shirts for display with suggested colours of black, grey and pink; flip chart or white board to display results; slips of paper for voting and a receptacle to collect voting slips; prizes for winners.
Instructions: Split participants into small groups of 9 to 16 people. Inform them that they are part of a sports team that has to decide the colour of their jerseys (black, grey or pink). The decision will be made through a vote by writing on the slips provided the initial of their chosen colour. Participants can only vote once in each round.
The winning colour will be the colour that obtains the most votes. There will be 6 rounds of votes – the first three rounds are played in silence, whilst in the second three rounds participants can communicate with each other.
Before voting begins each participant will be given a set of ordered preferences for the colours with the most preferred at the top and least preferred at the bottom. When the votes are tallied write the results up on the board.
If the group elects the preferred or second preferred colour of a participant, he/she received points (more if his/her preferred colour won). At the end of the game calculate the total points each participant obtained in all rounds.
The ultimate goal for the participants is to win the most points: the more points they have, the more chances they have to win the prize. Have each participant write their names on slips in the amount that corresponds to how many points they’ve won. Draw a name from the receptacle to award the prize.
Discussion: The groups of preferred colours should be uneven and some should have different orders of colour preferences. Therefore, the participants will have incentives to think strategically about their vote. For example: it is sometimes better (in terms of winning points) to vote for their second preferred colour.
This should raise students’ awareness about elections and the multi-facets strategies of the vote.
After the voting game, ask participants to share their impressions. Many participants may say that they did not realize there were different ways of voting and hadn’t thought about voting ‘strategically’ before. Conversations may broaden to participants discussing elections and voting more generally. They will likely have lots to say on the matter.
Summary: While the voting game can be effective in teaching youth about the different ways to vote, it may not be very effective in mobilizing them to vote. Research shows that one single civic education activity may not be enough to stimulate a change in political behaviour. However, the immediate repercussions of these workshops reinforce the positive message of civic engagement.
*Adapted from the Making Electoral Democracy Work Project’s blog post titled The Voting Game.