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.
Pictured: PPC Chairman Deputy Russell Labey called the decision "historic."
The boundaries of these ‘super constituencies’ and their amount of votes are:
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.
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."
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.”
I hope the change will mean greater voter engagement and I really look forward to standing in St Lawrence, St John and Trinity!— Kirsten Morel (@KirstenJersey) December 3, 2020
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."
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! pic.twitter.com/noC3TzqgvV— Sen. Lyndon Farnham (@lyndonfarnham) December 3, 2020
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."
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.