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FOCUS: Would weekend elections make more people vote?

FOCUS: Would weekend elections make more people vote?

Tuesday 16 April 2024

FOCUS: Would weekend elections make more people vote?

Tuesday 16 April 2024

Elections could be held on weekends or bank holidays in future as part of a bid to increase Jersey's woeful voter turnout... but would that actually work? And what else could be done to combat apathy?

Alongside streamining the voting process, changing the day of elections was one of the options Deputy Carina Alves, who is Assistant Chief Minister with civic responsibility for engagement and Vice Chair of the committee responsible for the running of the States and elections, said was currently being explored.

Trailing behind other jurisdictions

Her comments in the States Assembly yesterday came just days after a new report showed Jersey was still far behind other nations in terms of voter turnout.

Continuing a trend of several years, the report showed that Jersey had the lowest voter turnout of any 41 other jurisdictions surveyed at 42% when the average was 70%.

It followed a study published in November by a UK University, which found that over 40% of islanders did not vote in Jersey's most recent election, and saw individuals describe the process as "baffling", "bonkers" and "pointless".

However, these issues are something that Deputy Alves wants to address by making the electoral process more accessible, inclusive and engaging — while also encouraging greater participation from all sectors of the community.

Driving for change

Deputy Alves, who is Vice Chair of the Privileges and Procedures Committee (PPC), which is responsible for encouraging the public's interest in politics and raising awareness about reasons to vote, spoke about electoral reforms in the States Assembly earlier this week.


Pictured: Carina Alves is a Reform politician, an Assistant Chief Minister with responsibility for civic engagement, Vice Chair of the PPC and Chair of Political Awareness and Education Sub-Committee. 

Voter registration reform has also been carried out in consultation with the Government, for which funding had been approved in the Government Plan.

Deputy Alves said that the newly formed Political Awareness and Education (PAE) Sub-Committee, which she also chairs, is set to raise political awareness and engagement to nurture public interest in politics through collaboration with the CYPES department and the youth service over the coming years.

Deputy Alves also stressed the importance of leveraging government social media channels for voter engagement, with the Government only having shared one Facebook post with its followers about registering to vote during the last election period.

"I actually think that's really disappointing, and I'd like to see that change for the next election," the Reform Deputy said.

Automating the process

She also said that the PPC was looking to develop a digital photo register and to explore the introduction of a postal voting system.

The "main improvement" to the electoral process, she explained, would be the "automatic voter registration project" and the "implementation of a digital photo register" which would provide a digital version of the existing register.


Pictured: A recent student found that only 59% of islanders voted in the 2022 General Election, with the remainder abstaining because they were ill, off-island, ineligible, or disillusioned. 

"It means that voters will be able to cast their physical vote at any polling station on election day, as well as making the pre-poll process more mobile and allow for taking the ballot boxes out to the people," Deputy Alves explained.

"And we can set up different polling stations in different places and be much more responsive to the public and their needs on where they would like to vote and when.

"Consideration has also been given to using a postal voting system which allows for an automated count whereby the ballots are scanned.

"This system is widely used across the UK and was utilised very efficiently and effectively in Guernsey in 2021."

However, Deputy Alves "But our first step is to ensure that centralised, automatic voter electoral roll which will enable us to at the very least vote at any station in a more digital manner."

She explained that this change would come before online voting could be introduced to the island — which was met but a retort from Deputy Montfort Tadier: "Which of the following does the Vice Chair think will come first, online voting the new hospital, a tunnel to France or the second coming of our Lord?"

Is weekend voting the answer?

Jersey's 2022 General Election took place on 22 June 2022, a Wednesday.

According to Deputy Alves, options are being explored about holding elections on the weekend or bank holidays to encourage greater turnout.

Analysis of global voting data between 1945 and 2020 by The Conversation found that Sunday was the most popular day of the week for an election, with more than 60% of those analysed taking place on that day. Fewest elections were held on a Friday.


Pictured: More than 60% of elections were held on a Sunday. (The Conversation)

Interestingly, however, Tuesdays and Saturdays were the preferred days to hold elections among English-speaking countries.

Studies into whether day of the week affects participation show "varying results", with a 2004 study of 29 countries showing higher participation on Sundays – but participation averaging out when this was expanded to more nations.

Taking data from 3,217 national elections from 1945 and 2020 comparing voter registration to votes cast, participation seemed to average out with mean voter turnout around 70%.

'NOTA' not going anywhere...

One of the innovations for the 2022 election to combat a common frustration of voters around uncontested elections was to include a 'none of the above' option on ballot papers.

The option was made available in elections where there were either equal or fewer candidates than vacant positions, to "ensure there are no longer uncontested elections". Every Constable facing an uncontested election in 2022 therefore had to beat 'NOTA' on the ballot paper – and not all of them did so comfortably.

In 2022, Constable Kevin Lewis called for the 'none of the above' voting option to be scrapped before the next election, after he received 1,552 votes compared to the none of the above option at 1,046 — with 39% of those casting ballots in St Saviour voting against him.

Deputy Alves confirmed that the 'none of the above' options would remain on ballot papers in the next election.


DIGEST: Is life in Jersey 'better' than other nations? (2024)

“Voter apathy is on the rise” (2023)

Is Jersey still the worst in the world? (2022)

Jersey's political engagement among lowest in the world (2022)

Pictured top: Quotes from islanders referenced a 2023 study by Dr Christopher Pich's study that explored islanders' attitudes towards voting in the 2022 General Election. 

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