Guernsey Press

Election candidates may have to fund their own campaigns

Candidates at next year’s general election face having to fund all their campaign expenses themselves.

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Deputies will be asked to scrap States grants to candidates under proposals published by the States Assembly & Constitution Committee.

At the 2020 general election, each candidate was able to claim a grant from the States of up to £500 towards the production and distribution of campaign material.

The grants, which were introduced to open up elections to candidates who may not be able to afford their own campaign, cost the States just over £50,000 in 2020.

Sacc wants to focus election spending on benefits in kind instead.

‘While it is important that financial barriers for prospective candidates to run for election are limited, in the interest of openness and fairness, it should also be acknowledged that this was a key reason for the States to fund the production and distribution of the manifesto booklets, the election website, which houses digital manifestos, and meet the candidate events, which allow all candidates to meet with the electorate, all at no cost to the candidate,’ said Sacc president Carl Meerveld.

A recent review of island-wide voting found that the booklet of candidates’ manifestos was used by nearly nine in 10 voters at the 2020 election and Sacc said the booklet was its top priority for election spending in 2025.

Sacc is proposing to limit each candidate’s campaign expenditure to no more than £7,500.

In 2020, the limit was £6,000. Registered political parties would be allowed to spend up to £15,000.

It said its proposed limit had three aims – allowing candidates to communicate with voters and help voters become engaged and participate meaningfully in the process; deterring excessive spending; and not constraining reasonable levels of expenditure, which it said could have an impact on trust in the system.

Sacc wants to hold next year’s general election on Wednesday 18 June, with nominations opening on Monday 12 May and closing on Wednesday 14 May, which it said it would allow a campaign period similar in length to the period in 2020.

‘The turnaround for producing and distributing the manifesto booklets in 2020 was tight, but achievable, and it would not be considered sensible to reduce this period,’ said Deputy Meerveld.

Sacc will also ask the States to agree that in future by-elections for deputies should be held only if there are a minimum of three vacancies.

A by-election would currently be held if there was a single vacancy.

‘The committee is in agreement that, given the nature of island-wide voting and each voter being represented by 38 deputies, a single vacancy does not cause the same democratic deficit as it would in a district system, and thus deems it logical to adjust the requirements in line with this, so as not to expend significant cost and resources on a by-election for a vacancy of one or two deputies that could be reasonably absorbed,’ said Deputy Meerveld.