I was so excited! My voice was finally going to be heard! 18 and full of opinions, full of optimism, there was nothing I didn’t know. I was especially sure that I would put down my X where it would count. I was as sure about that as I was sure that I wanted to one day be the first female Leader of Government Business. Mind you, I hadn’t yet decided who I was going to vote for. But serving my country was all I ever wanted to do. My little X would mark the beginning of that journey and the end of it was limited only by the sky. Me and Cayman, we were in love back then!
And then the General Election was called for… get this… 4 DAYS before my 18th birthday. I was crushed!
Four years to wait and in those four years another election was called. I had been overseas at University before the registration deadline but had sent my documents in to be registered in time. My dreams were not very different but I wanted to be educated. I’d heard that world leaders throughout time had often been best prepared with a law degree. And so I was off getting me one. The officer who received my documents misplaced them for some or no reason. I came home from University sure that I would vote. This time I’d even gone so far as to say I know who I will vote for. Only to find out my name was not on the list. And so I missed that one too. As you can well imagine, I was disappointed. When would I become a political adult? A voice that would be counted?
Resigned to the realities, I settled myself to work for the Elections Office. If I couldn’t be a part of the decision, I would at least be a part of the process. It was the first election I worked and I’ve worked for every one since. I was a poll clerk in Bodden Town and after the close of the polls I got in my car and made it to St. George’s Anglican Church from BT Primary School in five minutes to be a part of the count. It was the first time I saw the ballot papers come to life and a decision that would change history and it was remarkable. It was so remarkable I wrote about it in my diary… the experience had to be put into words. The entry was shown to one of my parents who asked me to type it up. It ended up in the Caymanian Compass. It was a gorgeous experience that I will never forget and I’m glad that I had the presence of mind to write it all down.
Another four years came by and by this time I was living in West Bay. When the time came to register I didn’t. This wasn’t my district and I hadn’t become connected to the process. It wasn’t about parties or personalities but I’d have loved to have cast my first vote in Bodden Town. As it wasn’t possible without some false declarations I settled back and decided this time I would voluntarily pass. It was the beginning of practiced indifference that has led to the entry of earlier today. I now am part of a growing statistic of young and eligible Caymanians who have never voted.
In this year, however, I ran a polling station for the first time. I wasn’t selected for the count but I was no less fascinated by the process. It cemented in my mind a commitment to democracy as the system above all others, where those who vote cannot complain and where losers cannot claim that victors have denied them an opportunity to contribute.
I have today worked in several elections, including the Referendum of the past week as a servant to democracy. Democracy itself, not politics. The system itself, not the names populating the ballot or the parties that have waved their flags.
Yes, I have never registered to vote. To be clear, it wasn’t for lack of trying – at least not at first. I didn’t register in time for this Referendum, but I might have if I’d been paying attention.
It didn’t begin in an indifferent and irresponsible place, this question To Vote or Not To Vote. It began with someone who really wanted to, a lover of country and of countryman working hard to do good.
What surprises me is that I am not the only one not registered to vote. There are hundreds of my peers who have had a far more convenient opportunity to vote and never have. I note with interest that there are near 15,000 registered voters in Cayman. When you consider that my high school was near 1,000 and that we qualified at 18 years old over a decade ago, that number looks really small, doesn’t it? The three graduating classes behind us were even closer to 1,000 and the three ahead of us… if all the persons I went to school with registered you’d be looking at just under 3,000 voters right there!
But we aren’t voting. And I ask the question WHY?