Island-wide voting has made deputies less accountable, say Constables and Douzeniers

Wed 29 Mar 2023

Guernsey adopting island-wide voting has not improved the quality of candidates standing for election as deputies and has broken an important and valuable link between parish and the States in the view of douzeniers, Vale Senior Constable Richard Leale has told Scrutiny Management Committee (SMC) president Yvonne Burford.

Counting the ballot papers at St James for the island-wide voting referendum in 2018. (Guernsey Press picture by Peter Frankland)

He was responding on behalf of the douzaine to the committee's call for evidence in its review of island-wide voting, which has just extended the deadline for such submissions.

The SMC is evaluating the success of the change to Island Wide Voting by considering the demonstrable and perceived advantages and disadvantages of the new election process and has asked for comments from islanders and other stakeholders.

Having considered the new system and the call for evidence, Mr Leale said the following reflected the views of the majority of douzeniers present: 

  • Island Wide voting has made no difference to the actual quality of those elected to the role of deputy, as using thirty-eight votes in a reasoned fashion is nigh on impossible. Many voters from the Vale polling station did not use all of their thirty-eight votes, or tried to use those votes in a tactical way to keep certain candidates out. 

  • Having to choose so many out of a list when there was no rapport with many of the candidates was very difficult. The parish hustings and the doorstep meetings enabled voters to obtain a better idea of candidate views and demeanour. 

  • The loss of parish deputies has removed a conduit between the douzaine and the States. The attendance of your parish deputy at douzaine meetings was a valuable link. Deputies open doors in a way that douzaine members are unable to do. The parish deputies invariably had a pride in representing their parish and many worked very hard for the benefit of those parishioners. The monthly surgerys being well attended by both the parish deputies and parishioners. 

    Island wide elected deputies are far less accountable to people as a whole. It would be interesting to know if the level of parish queries has dropped with island wide voting. 

  • The actual voting process whilst going smoothly was an arduous process taking up a lot of volunteer time, with a compulsory period of training, which was very condescending. Then two whole days of manning a polling station. Far more people than usual requested assistance in filling out the voting paper because of the number of names on it and ensuring they accurately put their crosses in the correct spaces. The polling station officer being expected to be on the premises from before 8am until after 8pm over two days is asking too much of an unpaid official. 

In conclusion, the Vale douzaine which comprises sixteen douzeniers held a straw pole among the thirteen present with the following result of 11 who would like to see a return to parish deputies and two against, with the two against not wholly convinced that island wide voting is a success. 

  • Parishioners are encouraged to make their own representations to the SMC, which prefers responses via email to: [email protected]

More information about the review is available here

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