IoD July Breakfast - Guernsey's Voting Referendum

IoD July Breakfast - Guernsey's Voting Referendum

IoD July Breakfast - Guernsey’s Voting Referendum 

On the 10th October, Guernsey will hold its first referendum - to canvas residents’ opinions on the best method of electing States deputies. 

The IoD’s latest breakfast event, sponsored by Heritage Insurance, welcomed Deputy Peter Roffey, President of the States Assembly & Constitution Committee and Liz Dene, Lead Referendum Officer. 

Deputy Roffey outlined the political background to the referendum, and Liz Dene talked about the practical aspects of running the poll and how it will work. 

Key points from the morning’s presentation included: 

Background

  • In June 2017, the States of Guernsey agreed to hold a multi-option referendum on the method of electing Deputies to the States of Deliberation
  • The vote will take place on 10th October
  • The results of the referendum will only be implemented if 40% of the registered voters turn out
  • Individuals have to be on the electoral roll to vote and cut the off date for registering is 5th October,
  • A typical electoral turnout is 65-75% with variations between the parishes and typically a lower turn out in St Peter Port
  • Deputy Roffey stated the referendum has to be a success, to put to bed the debate and the will be respected by the assembly so that they can get on with other critical work
  • Information about the referendum can be found here gov.gg/referendum 

Voting System - Preferential Transferable Vote 

  • The voting system chosen is the Preferential Transferable Vote - the system is used around the world. From a user perspective, it is simple, but counting is more complicated
  • The count will be at in St James and open to the public and will keep public informed
  • Voters will rank their choice in order of preference. Voters do not have to rank every option - only the ones they like - which could be all of them or as few as one
  • If voters use an X instead of a number, that vote will count but only if one box is marked
  • The counting process will be done in a series of rounds; the first count will look at all options given the number one, i.e. the first preference votes
  • If there is a clear leader, i.e. with over 50%, that result will be declared as a winner, if none has got more than 50% the counting process will continue
  • If none have 50% of the vote, the lowest scoring option will be removed from the ballot and any second preference votes on those ballot papers assigned to the remaining options
  • Once the second preference votes from the option eliminated after the first round have been allocated, the total votes for the remaining option will be counted up
  • If an option now has more than 50% of the votes, a winner will be declared
  • If we have still not reached the 50%, the next lowest option will be eliminated and the second preference votes will be added to the totals of the remaining options
  • Where a second preference vote is for an option already eliminated the third preference votes will be counted 

Why is the Referendum Multiple Choice? 

  • A straightforward ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote would be simpler, to explain to voters, to administer and count but it was felt it would not achieve the closure needed
  • If we asked only two questions - do you want island wide - yes or no? A ‘no’ majority would result in no change, but if the answer was yes, we would be  in the same position - arguing over what island wide voting means, just like ‘Brexit means Brexit’ means little without detailed interpretation
  • There are many different views on what island-wide voting means, for example, rolling elections every two years or a fixed four-year term
  • There are five options to choose from, details of which can be found: https://gov.gg/CHttpHandler.ashx?id=113382&p=0 

Campaigning 

  • To avoid election fatigue, campaigning will start in September. There will be a video to explain the voting method and options and information distributed to all households
  • The materials issued will only give basic information about the options, not pros and cons or potential consequences
  • Over the summer, there will be a push to encourage people to sign on to the electoral register
  • Lobby groups will represent only three options, so two of the options will receive less publicity 

Voters 

  • 16-year-olds will be able to vote in the referendum so work with the College of Further Education and secondary schools will be important
  • People living off-island, if they are eligible to be on the roll and meet specific residential requirements, can register for a postal vote
  • Off-island students will be emailed to notify them of the referendum
  • Deputy Roffey stated that they want to make voting as easy as possible to encourage the largest possible number of voters 

The Result

  • The States of Guernsey has promised that if the turnout is more than 40%, it will implement the winning option, if 40% turnout is not achieved, the States Assembly & Constitution Committee will need to take a view of the number
  • If the result is for no change to the method of electing Deputies, then no action is required, but if one of the other four options is chosen, the practical issues will need to be resolved before 2020. These will require a number of policy letters and debates to approve the details 

The Bigger Picture 

  • It was noted that changing the electoral system  will not change the current system of government - the committee system
  • The IoD notes that we will still have 38 deputies, and the voting system change does not address how we will attract better quality candidates or how we can streamline the bureaucracy and improve the machinery of government.  This will continue to be a focus for the IoD in Guernsey. 

The Next IoD Breakfast Event - 14th September 

The IoD hopes the next breakfast event will feature the different lobby groups participating in a panel debate. Details will be announced shortly.