Sunday, 7 June 2009

Electoral Reform - my JEP Letter (from 2004)

Letter to the Jersey Evening Post: 01.06.2004

Dear Sir,

The recent proposals to widen the electoral districts and removal Senators from the States have, I believe, considerably more merit than they have been given.

Retaining the position of Deputy while doing away with that of Senator means that number of members over which an individual voter can decide will be reduced at a stroke. Smaller Parishes like St Mary will be heavily over represented in comparison with larger ones, despite the latter having several Deputies, because of the imbalance in population

What is this means is that smaller Parishes are drifting towards what was termed "rotten borough" status, in which their representation is out of all proportion to their size. The average number of people represented by one Deputy (based on the 2001 census) should be 3,006. St Mary has a population of 1,591, which means that St Mary's electorate have nearly twice the representation that electoral parity requires. Parishes like St Brelade, St Clement and Grouville, which have seen an increase in housing over the past decade, are rapidly losing representation.

The proposal for larger districts and fewer seats means that this kind of disparity is reduced. Moreover, the size of the proposed districts ensures that those elected have a sufficiently large mandate within the Island, which is important if accountability is to be maintained at the ballot box. It also removes the abuse whereby those who have failed re-election as Senators gain re-election as Deputies and continue with Presidencies of Committees for which they clearly have no Island mandate.

There is clearly a loosening of the ties of Parish, but this is still retained by the existence of the Connetables in the States. In any case, the old idea that often surfaces that the Connetable or Deputy "know their own Parishioners" may be tenable in St Mary; it cannot be tenable in larger Parishes with populations of 10,000 or above.

The United Kingdom has long perceived the need for boundary changes in Electoral districts as the geography of population distributions changed. Now that Guernsey have grasped this nettle, is it not overdue for Jersey to do likewise?

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