Guernsey Press

Meerveld - ‘most people happy with island-wide voting system’

THE deputy who successfully led the campaign for island-wide voting thinks most people are happy with the system.

Deputy Carl Meerveld. (Picture by Luke Le Prevost, 31783296)

Deputy Carl Meerveld said that a Scrutiny review of the 2020 election launched recently is right to rule out scrapping island-wide voting ahead of the next election in 2025.

‘As the first island-wide election was such a success, I think it is unlikely that this long-awaited and much-desired democratic development will face significant pressure for change at this time, although there will always be some who would prefer a different electoral system,’ he said.

The Scrutiny Management Committee has appointed a panel, which includes Deputy Meerveld, to consider improvements to how the election was run in 2020.

‘I was always an optimistic supporter of island-wide elections, but the results exceeded even my expectations,’ he said.

‘It achieved a higher number of registered voters than the general elections in 2012 and 2016, and a record turnout of over 79% of those on the electoral roll.

‘119 candidates stood for election, more than ever before, with each candidate needing the backing of approximately one in five voters to be elected.

'These were exceptionally positive results by anyone’s standards, particularly as the election took place against the backdrop of a global pandemic.’

Deputy Meerveld spearheaded the winning campaign for ‘option A’ in a referendum on the electoral system in 2018. Full island-wide voting was used for the first time two years later.

‘There are always ways to improve a process and that is the purpose of this review.

‘One of the areas where I would like to see improvement is in the ability for members of the electorate to interact with candidates, both remotely and in person, to enable them to better determine their choices.’

Former Deputy Chris Green is also sitting on Scrutiny’s review panel.

‘I remain deeply interested in local politics and, in particular, I am fascinated by the voting system the island has adopted,’ said Mr Green.

‘Full island-wide voting may or may not be the very best method. It has certain advantages for the electorate as well as certain disadvantages.

'I remain open-minded about all realistic options for our voting system. I am interested to see what the general public think following the experience of the 2020 election.

'The 2025 election should be run as an island-wide vote. The new system needs to be given further opportunity to prove itself in any event.’

Mr Green expects voter engagement to be an issue identified in the review.

‘How practical is it for a voter to make a fully informed decision about up to 38 candidates from such a large field?

‘The system seems to assume that the average voter has loads of time to do the due diligence. Some people, for example those who have young families and who work, just don’t have that sort of time in their lives.

‘I also think the decline of parish hustings and significant door-to-door canvassing were big losses. Sometimes, you really need to grill a candidate personally before you can make a final decision as to whether you will vote for them.’

The other members of the panel are Deputies Yvonne Burford and Simon Fairclough and former Deputy Michelle Le Clerc.