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"Historic day" as huge voting reforms approved

Thursday 03 December 2020

"Historic day" as huge voting reforms approved


States Members have voted for an "historic" shake-up of the electoral system that will see Senators removed and new constituencies drawn up, following a debate lasting almost three days.

The new system, to be implemented for the 2022 election, will see an increase in the amount of Deputies in the Assembly, and a merging of districts.

Instead of the 17 voting districts that the island is currently divided into, there will be nine ‘super constituencies’ formed, bringing some parishes together in an effort to give voters an equal weight in the next election and to balance the difference in population size.

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Pictured: PPC Chairman Deputy Russell Labey called the decision "historic."

The boundaries of these ‘super constituencies’ and their amount of votes are:  

  • District 1: St. Helier South – 4 Deputies
  • District 2: St Helier Central – 5 Deputies
  • District 3: St Helier North – 4 Deputies
  • District 4: St Saviour – 5 Deputies
  • District 5: St Clement – 4 Deputies
  • District 6: St Brelade – 4 Deputies
  • District 7: St Mary, St Ouen and St Peter – 4 Deputies
  • District 8: St John, St Lawrence and Trinity – 4 Deputies
  • District 9: Grouville and St Martin – 3 Deputies

In addition, an amendment from Constable Karen Shenton Stone that was voted in by Members will mean that a ‘None of the Above’ option will be added to future ballot papers for use by voters who do not wish to vote for the sole candidate in uncontested elections.

The debate ran from Tuesday over nearly three days, and saw Members go through seven amendments, which varied from one proposing to only have exclusively Deputies in the States to another asking for a referendum before deciding anything. However, only Constable Shenton Stone's amendment was adopted.

Indeed, with many Members’ amendments rejected, “compromise” was a key word in the debate. A number of Members expressed that, though the proposition did not match up with their ideal systems, they would be voting for it to bring through some form of the change they thought was necessary.

Speaking towards the beginning of the debate on Tuesday, Senator Sam Mézec said that, “though it pains me to say it, because I want a system based on one type of member and equal sized constituency, I’ll have to compromise."

“Rather than be a block on change and refuse to support anything because it’s not perfect in my eyes, I have to take a step towards those I disagree with and say let’s find some commonality so we can get that change… in the interests of the public to have a better system that they can have confidence will deliver a fairer election, a more representative government and safeguard the parish system which is something many consider to be important," he explained.

Similarly, Deputy Rob Ward said: “What we’ve got here is not the best of both worlds, but a pretty good part of both worlds, and that compromise must be supported, and is a real success for the future.”

However, some Members felt the debate was ill-timed considering the pandemic.

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Pictured: Constable Karen Shenton Stone's amendment to include a 'None of the Above' option on ballot papers in uncontested elections was also adopted.

Though he had proposed an amendment, Constable Len Norman admitted that “we should not be debating this at this time, there are other more important things for us to worry about, think about and discuss. But we’ve been forced into this by the PPC committee who decided with no notice and no previous consultation… I understand why they did it, but it really wasn’t the right time to do it.”

The Chief Minister also expressed his concerns on timing, noting: “Yesterday [Wednesday 2 December, ed], I had to announce along with others a hospitality short circuit potentially out to New Year… Islanders are not engaged on this.

“Most I would suggest are worried about their lives or their livelihoods, or both. So, to see Senators removed, and what I see as the parish system ultimately destroyed, and all without a referendum, I think that is completely against what islanders expect us to be doing in our roles, particularly now.”

Trinity Constable Philip Le Sueur repeated concerns for the parish system and fears that the role of the Constable could follow the Senators in disappearing down the line, saying: “I will not be voting for this proposition - I do not, as some will say, from a sense of self-preservation, but from a firmly held belief that if adopted this proposition will accelerate the drive towards the dismantling of the parochial system."

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Pictured: Many States Members - including the Chief Minister - suggested the discussion should have been pushed back on account of the pandemic.

Despite these claims, Chairman of the Privileges and Procedure Committee (PPC) Deputy Russell Labey, who put the proposition forward, assured in his final speech that the parish system would not be destroyed, saying: “Constables are safe in their position – PPC, whilst I am still Chair of it, until we leave office, will not move to remove the Constables.

“I’m really sad that so many people in this debate have talked about the parish system in terms of awaiting the death knell… the parish system is not a lame dog, every single person in this Assembly values the parish system and wants to champion the parish system – we are not going to let the parish system die with this change of voting system.”

He concluded: “We need to take this tough decision today because we need to reconnect with our people otherwise just imagine going back in 2022 to the same old system with the same old holes.” Following the vote, Deputy Labey hailed the result as an "historic day" for the island.

Reacting on social media afterwards, States Members reflected on the result of the debate. Deputy Kirsten Morel tweeted that he “was really torn between my love of representing St Lawrence and the need for fairness in our voting system,” but that he “voted for fairness because that is the right thing for islanders.”

Deputy Montfort Tadier said that “2020 will be remembered of course as the year of the covid pandemic, but also the year where the States of Jersey has done what it hasn’t done in decades and got to grips with some significant electoral reform.”

Deputy Kevin Pamplin heralded the change, describing it as "way overdue".

Senator Lyndon Farnham was less optimistic, however, saying: "Senators to be removed at next elections. The @StatesAssembly has just voted to remove the island wide mandate and create super-constituencies for the next elections in 2022. Not one of our greatest days."

He later added in response to a commenter: "If we think for one minute that this will improve voter engagement then we are sorely mistake. However, lets wait and see."

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Comments

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Posted by Jon Jon on
Doesn't go far enough....we don't need this many politicians ,reduce the number by half.Will it make me vote next time ,I doubt it as I've lost all faith in how this Island is run.
Posted by Private Individual on
This is the worst day for democracy in Jersey's history.

The constables are still going to get in with no votes cast!

It's ridiculous the constables have consolidated their power base even more now than before.

All members should be voted into the governmnet.
Posted by IanSmith97 on
It is still grossly undemocratic with Constables still in the States. St Helier population 33,000 and 1 Constable in the States. Trinity and St Mary with barely 2,000 have 1 Constable each in the States. If the Constable is “The Father of the Parish” (an outdated saying now anyway) they should be running their Parishes and not skewing the democratic balance in the legislature. Jersey has been dragged into the 20th century with this reform, not the 21st.
Posted by Ted 3Please on
Step in the right direction. Well done to Deputy Labey.
Posted by Ted 3Please on
Step in the right direction. Well done to Deputy Labey.
Posted by Keith Marsh on
I disagree with many of the comments here and feel that this was a total waste of important states assembly time.
This Island is fighting for its life, many businesses and jobs are going to be lost during the next few months and THREE days of chat helps who ?
There is a time to TRY and mend the public's distain with Jersey politicians after the farce over Covid-19, BUT this should have been done by the People of Jersey and not by the members of the assembly.
More important matters are awaiting to be dealt with.
Posted by Jon Jon on
Should add not one politician will hold an island wide mandate,before I had a choice of 8 senators plus one deputy in my parish ,that’s nine states members,who I could vote for,now I’m going down to four.What was needed was all politicians on island wide mandates,those that get in via the easy seats in St Helier struggling to be re elected.The amount we have in there who couldn’t stay in their profession,then get on the gravy train,we know who they are,this has been rushed through by labey as were the tax reforms by pinel,under the disguise of Covid.
Posted by Guy de Faye on
I am afraid that we have ended up with a very predictable mess that has been contrived by a total lack of understanding of many of the fundamental aspects of Jersey democracy.

There are numerous faults, but the most obvious is that voter options continue to be limited by where they live.

States Members harped on about achieving equal value voting status and how elections were conducted elsewhere - which conveniently overlooked the fact that most other jurisdictions have across the board political parties.

Voter equality is of little consequence if the choice of candidates is different, constituency by constituency. Sadly the fundamental flaw was too difficult a concept for our Assembly to understand. This critical aberration additionally convinced them to abolish Senators - the only political cadre that offers voters the same choice of candidates and an equal number of votes to exercise.

It's historic all right. One of the most historic blunders in Jersey's constitutional history made by the poorest government in living memory.
Posted by Paul Troalic on
Good to see some changes for the better taking place at last.
Ironically I suggested 'none of the above' in a letter to the (JEP) Editor nearly 10 years ago! No one thought it appropriate as it gained no support. Wonder what's changed?
Please to see the Senator category being removed but the time is right for Island wide voting not super constituencies. Guernsey has successfully moved to this so why not Jersey?
The only disappointing aspect for me is that the Connetables have not been removed. They are superfluous in my view and counter productive as their block vote can cause many good propositions to fail.
Posted by IanSmith97 on
The island should be divided up into constituencies where every vote is of the same value. This reform addresses that somewhat. An all Island list would remove the link between a constituent and the member. If the assembly was elected on an all Island list who would a resident of St Helier go to with a problem? No constituency link between a member and a constituent is a bad thing. The answer “they do it in Guernsey” is not good enough. The fly in the ointment with this reform is the remaining of the Constables in the assembly. This is a democratic disgrace. So called tradition, whereby one Constable representing 2,000 sits alongside a Constable representing 33,000 is mind boggling in its naivety and unfairness in a modern democracy. It is almost as bad, not quite, but almost as bad as the House of Lords in the U.K. Constables should be running their parishes, end of. As I said in my previous post we have been dragged into the 20th not the 21st century. Somebody should demand a Royal Commission into this Island’s undemocratic governance. There, having said it, that will ensure this post goes unpublished. Tradition should never trump fair, representative democracy.
Posted by Jon Jon on
What happens when we all tick 'none of the above'....could be a good way of dispensing with the States Members,we know its the senior civil servants who run this Island.
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