‘I would not support island-wide voting again’
A FORMER deputy, who spent years leading calls for island-wide voting, admitted yesterday that she had changed her mind on the issue.
Mary Lowe told a public hearing on the electoral system that what she had seen since 2020, when all 38 deputies were elected island wide for the first time, had left her believing that at least some seats in the States should be elected by parishes or districts.
‘I’d always been for full island-wide voting,’ she said.
‘But when you see the lack of experience in this States, maybe we have missed out there, and maybe we should have done some island-wide and some parish. I am happy to admit that.
‘Hands up – I would not support island-wide voting again. Some island-wide voting I would, but not all.’
For a brief period in the 1990s, 12 seats in the States were reserved for conseillers elected island wide, but the office of conseiller was abolished in 2000.
After that, general elections were based on parishes or districts, until island-wide voting was introduced for all seats three years ago, when each elector had 38 votes and could choose from 119 candidates.
That system was backed in a referendum and the 2020 election saw the highest voter turnout on record. However, Deputy Lowe felt that public support for it had since drained away.
‘Having so many candidates made it very difficult for people to understand the candidates before them. It became a bit of a lottery to be honest. There’s a great learning curve from what happened.
‘I used to say the electorate should be able to elect their government, not part of it. But seeing the fallout, and from what’s happened this term, and the backlash from people who feel that they’ve been deprived of having a deputy in their district, I think it has come back more and more to people wanting parish deputies,’ she said.
Mrs Lowe, who lost her seat in 2020 after 23 years as a Vale deputy and three as an island-wide conseiller, told the hearing that she still frequently received requests for assistance and advice from islanders, who in many cases she said no longer felt properly represented by a local deputy.
Vale douzenier and former Guernsey Press editor Richard Digard told the panel that electing all deputies in island-wide seats had broken valuable links between parishes, deputies and their voters.
‘From a parish perspective it has been something of a disaster. This just hasn’t worked at all. There has been a complete disconnect from the current Assembly with our parish,’ said Mr Digard.
‘In practice, people don’t really know where to go. If you had a particular parish problem, you would go to the parish deputy. If it was a bigger issue, you would probably go to somebody who had a higher profile in the States and a bit of a reputation for looking after island-wide topics.
‘In the Vale, we see quite a lot of this stuff coming through the website and social media and people are casting around for a focal point – somebody who is going to express an interest in the problems they feel they’ve got.
‘If Mrs Lowe is still getting these phone calls, it tells you the system that is in place really is not working at a domestic or parish level.’
Deputy Sue Aldwell, a former senior constable of Torteval, who also spoke at the hearing, believed there were still ways for parishes and deputies to work closely together, but she detected little enthusiasm to retain island-wide voting.
‘I don’t think we have anyone in the upper parishes who likes island-wide voting. Having spoken to all the constables, they would all like to go to parishes or districts or a hybrid,’ she said.