Register, research and vote, says electoral support group
‘REGISTER, research and vote’ is the message of a new group of eminent islanders who are setting out to provide information on all candidates standing in the October election.
The 2020 Election Support Group comprises former Bailiff Sir Geoffrey Rowland, former conseiller John Langlois, Lord Eric de Saumarez, former jurat and Grammar School head teacher Alan Bisson, and Diane Ward, who has played a major role in Guernsey’s finance industry since she and her husband Michael set up the island’s first captive insurance company manager and went on to found Islands Insurance.
One of the major points the group wants to stress is that none of its members is standing for election, nor are any of them endorsing a particular candidate.
‘We are all about registering on the electoral roll,’ said Sir Geoff. ‘Then we are all about research, because we think it’s very important, and the final push is to vote.
‘We are at a challenging time in Guernsey, facing a unique election, and we have to do our best to see that islanders have the maximum information.’
At the heart of the group’s initiative will be a website, www.2020esg.gg, which it is hoped will end up featuring information about each person standing.
A questionnaire will be sent to every candidate, asking them for information about themselves that may be additional to what they put in their manifestos.
Sir Geoffrey said that the candidates will have plenty of time to fill this in, about two weeks.
The catalyst behind the group’s formation was Mrs Ward, who has never sought election herself but did serve for several years as a non-States member of the then Telecommunications Board.
‘We’ve moved to island-wide voting – whether one thinks that it’s a good or bad idea, that’s what we have – and it’s up to everybody to make sure that runs as smoothly as possible,’ she said.
‘The manifestos of potentially 100 candidates is a huge number to try to evaluate, so our objective was first of all to get people to register and then make sure it’s possible to research the candidates.’
With only a week to go before the electoral roll closes, some might say that the group could have set out its stall sooner, but Mr Langlois said that to have come forward too soon could have seen people forgetting about it. ‘Now it’s something fresh and while people have got the election on their minds,’ he said.
Sir Geoffrey added that it was not all that long ago that the next election was going to be held next year, and the States’ decision to bring it forward was made only recently.
‘I was thinking about it and what troubled me was how people were going to be convinced of the need to research, research, research and not just turn up at a polling station and cast a vote emotionally,’ he said.
Mr Langlois likened what the group was doing to the hustings, which will not be taking place this year due to the number of anticipated candidates.
Hustings provide electors with the chance to hear candidates answering a range of questions, so the support group’s website will act as an online version.
No comment will be made on the candidates’ answers to questions, nor will any public comment be permitted. ‘That’s not for us,’ said Sir Geoffrey.
‘That’s for others to do. If people see that someone has not answered, they can make their own judgement.’
n As of yesterday morning there were 28,075 names on the electoral roll. After the roll closed ahead of the 2016 election, 30,320 people had registered to vote.
Registrations for the roll close at midnight on Friday 21 August and the deadline for requesting a postal vote is Friday 25 September.