Following a downturn in interest in parish politics in recent years, the recent general election saw a bumper crop of candidates for their soon-to-be vacant douzaine seats.
In St Martin’s, this was the first contested election of this type the parish has had since 2006. Just short of 400 votes were cast – just over 10% of the electorate on the electoral roll for the parish.
Ordinarily douzeniers are decided at a parish meeting attended by a few dozen people and rarely contested in the parish.
Returning officer Ben Gregg said there had been a mix of ages voting throughout the day on Wednesday, including those in their 30s and 40s.
‘We were pleased and surprised,’ he said.
‘The turnout was bigger than we expected. We are not quite sure why. It could be due to island-wide voting. We don’t know if the interest will continue.’
Under the new island-wide voting system, candidates no longer stand in districts, meaning they do not represent a specific area. This has been one reason mooted for the bumper numbers. In St Martin’s there were nine candidates for the five seats.
Former parish constable Dave Beausire was re-elected to the douzaine and topped the poll, with 245 votes.
‘I’m very happy,’ he said.
‘It is the first time I have had to do a manifesto really.’
He was glad there had been more interest and hoped it would encourage more people to stand. He added that, unlike the constable job, douzeniers only had to attend a meeting once a month and do some hedge and stream inspections, which meant the role could fit around doing a normal job.
In St Peter Port 464 votes were cast across the ten douzenier candidates. Despite the polls closing at 8pm and counting starting at once, the result was not declared until 11.30pm.
Returning officer Dennis Le Moignan said he was pleased with how it had gone.
‘There has not been a election in the parish that big for a while,’ he said.
‘It’s fantastic for us.’
Organisation Women in Public Life helped promote the votes and also put all candidate details and manifestos up online.
Chairwoman Shelaine Green said it had been a good night.
‘Our congratulations to everyone who stood for election last night, but particularly, of course, the three new female douzeniers Odette Duerden, Carla Bauer and Dr Nichola Lloyd, and new St Peter Port Constable Zoe Lihou,’ she said.
‘In total, 12 new female douzeniers were elected this year, from the nineteen who stood.
‘That influx has shifted the percentage of female douzeniers in the island from 21% to 29% in one jump, which means there is now a greater proportion of women in the douzaines than in the States. As a result, there are no longer any parishes with one female douzenier. In 2019 there were three [parishes], including St Martin’s.’