Reforming our Democracy and forging a new 'Jersey Way'
“Reform Jersey believes that every Islander should have an equal vote in determining how Jersey is run and that as much power as possible should be in the hands of ordinary voters. Our democracy should be easy to engage with and should be designed to genuinely meet the desires of our community.”
Small jurisdictions have the capacity to be beacons of democracy because the power in the hands of an ordinary voter is much greater than in big countries with huge populations, where big money and interest groups dominate. Yet Jersey has the lowest voter turnout in the OECD and, at the last election, 17 States Members were elected uncontested. We believe that some of these problems are due to structural failings in our system, which have not been addressed by generations of politicians who have been incapable of putting aside their self-interests.
Many Islanders would have been disappointed to read the assessment made by the Independent Jersey Care Inquiry about the “Jersey Way”, which referred to the feeling amongst a large section of the population, who do not engage with the Island’s institutions because of the lack of faith many have in how they serve the public, rather than celebrate of our culture, generosity and tradition of voluntary service. We will work to overturn this perception and reform our institutions so that they are fit for purpose.
Composition of the States Assembly
Our electoral system is out-dated, over-complicated and unfair. For the States Assembly to be a truly democratic body which represents the views of the public, it desperately needs to be reformed. Having three categories of States Member is unnecessary and their constituency sizes vary so much that the value of your vote is vastly different depending on which Parish you live in.
We believe that every vote should be of equal value and the electoral system should be simple and user friendly. Constituencies should be multi-seat to allow voters a greater choice of candidate, prevent uncontested elections from taking place and abolish ‘safe seats’ for entrenched incumbents.
We pledge to bring forward proposals within the first year of this term of office to achieve equal sized voting constituencies, fewer States Members and a proportional voting system.
Making voting easier
Reform Jersey successfully brought forward a proposition in the States Assembly to approve the principle that voters will have the opportunity to vote online by the 2022 election. Work is ongoing to develop a system which is secure. However, for those who prefer to vote in person at a polling station, there is much more which can be done to make it easier and more accessible.
For a start, all eligible voters should automatically be enrolled on the electoral register, rather than requiring them to fill in a form every few years. This would end the situation where people often turn up to their polling station on Election Day, only to be told that they are not registered, so cannot vote.
In many Parishes, the polling stations are not placed in the most convenient location and are often out of the way for voters to get to. We will support a review being held to identify where the most convenient venues for polling stations are.
Lastly, there is no reason why voters should only be able to vote at one polling station. The technology already exists to ensure voters cannot vote multiple times at different stations. Voters should be able to vote at which ever polling station is most convenient for them.
An elected Speaker of the States Assembly
The Clothier review, Carswell review and Independent Jersey Care Inquiry have all recommended that the States Assembly should elect its own Speaker to preside over parliamentary sittings, rather than have the Bailiff removed from his court duties to preside. We believe it is not compatible with the principle of the separation of powers to have our Chief Justice act as parliamentary Speaker.
We will support introducing an elected Speaker to preside over States sittings and to undertake outreach work to promote democracy in our Island by engaging with schools, businesses and civic groups to improve how they interact with the States Assembly. Meanwhile, the Bailiff can focus on his judicial duties and reduce the need of the courts to hire expensive English Commissioners to do the work that he is qualified to undertake. This will improve democratic accountability and provide better value for money for the public.
A democratic Council for St Helier
When compared to similar towns across the British Isles, the local administration in St Helier has very few powers and lacks democratic accountability. The democratic structure of the Parish administration in town is based on laws which are hundreds of years out of date and do not reflect the level of service provision which has been taken up by the Town Hall. The current system of electing two Procureurs du Bien Public and a Roads Committee is unnecessarily complicated and is not understood or valued by most St Helier residents.
We support the establishment of a democratic local council for St Helier (a ‘Conseil Municipal de St Helier’) with enhanced powers to deliver services for residents, businesses and visitors in town. ‘Conseiller’ should be an unpaid honorary position, directly elected by residents in a public election. The Conseil should have bye-law making powers and enhanced powers on local infrastructure, business licences, planning and public entertainment.
Our long-standing tradition of honorary service in the Parishes is something which many Islanders take great pride in and which we believe must be protected and enhanced by ensuring it remains relevant for the modern age. Online information relating to Parish events and administration is not good and must be improved.
We believe that the elections for Parish Procureurs and Roads Committees should be synchronised across the Parishes, to enable a period of Island-wide focus on Parish affairs and boost publicity for these roles and their purpose, so that the public are more aware of what is going on in their area.<< PREVIOUS