The Electoral Boundaries Commission is now moving to examine records of voter registrations to use as a possible basis for deciding how the various consistencies should be redrawn. This has come as something of a surprise, as it was initially thought that the results of the census would be the benchmark for deciding the new boundaries for the election districts.
By using census population figures it was thought that the districts would represent more closely the principles of representative elections. The move to use voter registrations may explain the early cut off of registrations, which ended June 29.
The target date for redrawing the boundaries has been set for late August. Until the boundaries are established it appears both parties will have difficulty in selecting candidates who they feel will be most appealing to local voters. However, independent candidates, who are targeting districts, will have an initial advantage of being able to begin their grassroots campaigns immediately.
The political parties’ decision to appoint at large candidates is also affected, as some who initially were slated to run at large may be approved instead for a certain district where they have a more focused appeal.
Two areas appear in dispute. Middle Caicos has the highest percentage of registered voters to population but is expected to be rolled into one seat with North Caicos. Previously, these two largest islands hosted three parliamentary seats. Middle Caicos representatives have always served as ministers in administrations run by both parties.
Middle Caicos has the largest habitable land size and 80 years ago hosted the country’s largest population. For this reason, Middle Caicos family roots represent a large portion of the country’s population.
The other controversial district is Grand Turk, which has always served as the seat of government despite its location well apart from the country’s population centres. In previous elections Grand Turk had four seats and was intensely contested. In the 2007 election it was split, with two seats going to each party. Now, with the seats reduced to only two, there is less at stake and campaign efforts are expected to shift away from the capital island, which is largely populated by government employees.
Deputy leader of the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) Sharlene Cartwright Robinson, who hails from South Caicos but who resides with her civil servant husband in Grand Turk, is now promoting the idea of keeping Middle Caicos as a separate seat despite its current smaller population. Robinson has made it known that she intends to move back to the Caicos Islands and will move next month to Provo. Her husband has now retired from the civil service, having accepted his severance offer from the government.