Democratic deficit despite record turnout

A DEMOCRATIC deficit has been highlighted again in Guernsey with another report showing thousands of islanders are disconnected from policy-makers.

 All ready for the count in the first island-wide election of deputies. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29538178)
All ready for the count in the first island-wide election of deputies. (Picture by Peter Frankland, 29538178)

Only half of the island’s population aged over 16 voted in last year’s general election, even though it was a record turnout.

A study produced by the island’s registrar-general looks at whether automatic enrolment should be introduced to drive up voter participation.

The suggestion is residents should be able to register on the electoral roll whenever they are accessing States services, such as renewing a driving licence or filing a tax return.

This was recommended by independent experts from the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association in its post-election report last year, which put a spotlight on the missing thousands of potential voters.

Deputy Carl Meerveld, president of the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee, also wants to investigate the feasibility of so-called i-voting, so people could ballot online from their computers or devices.

He said last year’s exceptional demand for postal voting showed a desire to vote remotely.

‘What we’re looking to do is try to expand the ways that the electorate can engage. We’re not going to be removing any of the traditional methods so there would still be polling stations and postal voting.

‘Our turnout was much better at the last election, but there’s always room for improvement and we would like to get as many eligible voters as possible to first register and then to follow through with actual voting, and this is where offering something like internet voting would help because it’s another avenue.’

Another recommendation from Sacc is that it should provide more information to islanders about what the work of a deputy entails.

It is thought that a public awareness campaign could help overcome some of the barriers that stop people from under-represented sectors from standing for public office, particularly women and people with disabilities.

Shelaine Green, the chairwoman of Women in Public Life, welcomed the focus on demystifying the Assembly.

‘Sacc recognises that, on its own, this won’t address the specific point made by the independent election observers – the lack of women in the States and the absence of government action to promote the participation of women in public life.

‘In our meeting with Sacc on 1 April, we recommended a simple step – that the States harnesses the power of its excellent communications team to run a marketing campaign to encourage women and other under-represented groups to consider joining the candidate pool for 2025.’

Voters overwhelmed by number of candidates is main feedback

FEELING overwhelmed by the number of candidates standing was the main feedback from a survey of voters.

Most responded that they were in favour of island-wide voting and they liked the manifesto booklet, even though they found it onerous to read the entire publication.

Some people said that there should be a limit on the number of candidates, for example by requiring them to pay a refundable deposit.

However that idea was rejected by the States’ Assembly & Constitution Committee because it would be a barrier for less affluent candidates and could lead to a less diverse Assembly.

Of the 119 candidates, 48 provided feedback after the election.

The main theme of their responses was that they would have liked to have seen more centrally organised hustings-type events.

The difficulties inherent in organising such events for a large field were acknowledged, but it was suggested that they could be organised by parish with only candidates of that district up on stage.

Another suggestion from hopefuls was the 'meet the candidates' event at Beau Sejour would have been of greater value had it taken place after the manifesto booklet had been sent out.

The booklet was one of the prime means for finding out about the candidates.

Sacc is seeking permission to review the communications support offered to candidates, including better co-ordination of the hustings.

Top Stories

More From The Guernsey Press

UK & International News