Thursday, 25 April 2013

Referendum Results

Option B was the winner of the referendum on States reform after a second round of voting. A - 45% and B - 54.98% of the vote. There was a definite protest vote in St Brelade, with 31 spoilt papers, 1.34% of the vote, and the highest number of spoilt papers.

By way of comparison, the 1948 change was done after polls in the Parish Halls. The result there was noted as follows:

"Island vote on Reform proposals taken in the parish halls: 64% register for Reform, 36% against".

I should note I haven't been able to find turnout, which was probably higher.

But given that Option C only got 19%, and that means Reform proposals (A and B) got together around 81%, I would say that is a good mandate for change.

Will an overall turnout of 26% be enough to make a difference with regard to the States? That will be interesting to see.

Yet excluding St Helier, turnout rises to around 37%, which is certainly significant. I think St Helier has to be treated as a statistical "outlier", as turnout is disproportionately low there. It is a bit like looking at average wage, where an outlier skews the distribution significantly. I think there are good arguments for taking it out of the equation. And 37% turnout, while not brilliant, isn't far off Jeremy Macon's magic 40%. That's something which really must be made clear.

After all you are looking at wages, an outlier skews the distribution. Hence there are grumbles because one or two high wages can push the average way above what most people earn. The same principle applies here. St Helier skews voter turnout. It distorts the picture for the rest of the Island. And while it has the largest population, should we allow this distortion to effect how the other 11 Parishes stack up? Should 29% (St Helier's proportion of the Islandwide voters) dictate the interpretation of 71% (the other Parishes) with respect to turnout?

St Helier has a huge drag effect, with only 16.75% turnout, which is really terrible. For all the canvassing around St Helier, the A-Team must feel very disappointed. It could have made a huge difference, as could St Saviour, which also had a poor turnout of 22.1%, not as bad, but not good either. If those extra voters had turned out, even up to 25%, it might have made a significant difference.

My random survey in St Helier put Option A at the top, but I did  note "It should be borne in mind that the sample is mostly of people either working or living in St Helier, and that may have a partial bias. I haven't been to the more rural Parishes." That was evidently the case, as the low turnout showed.

Tristan Gray noted "All as expected votes wise so far. Country voted B, Town voted A."  Clearly the apathy of the town citizens, and their inability to come and vote was a major problem. As another A Team supporter said: "If 5% more of St Helier got off their arses and turned off Corrie for one minute - it could have been different.." And another person noted: "Spoke to a shopkeeper at lunchtime opposite the Town hall, He said it had been dead all morning, no-one would know there was anything happening today."

I'd say it was a mandate for democratic change, and with a bare 19% for Option C in the first round, the days of Parish Deputies and Senators are numbered. Option C never gained a majority in any Parish, and never even managed to come second.

47% of those voting for Option C went for a second option, of those, 92% of the second choices went to Option B. That pushed B further ahead, but it had already the highest position after round one, and ended at 54.9% to Option A at 45%. That does mean that Option A supporters should not feel cheated, as they might have if Option A had been at the front in the first round, and lost to the second. But that was not the case. Option B had a lead and just increased that lead. There was no "second bite of the cherry"; it would have won on the first round alone.

Mark Forskitt made a very good point: "Over half of those voting C first preference did not put a second preference. Either their principal objective was keep senators, or they were proxy for none of the above. A better thought out option set would have made that distinction possible."

He also made the point that it is "Essential to have AV/STV for all elections and reopen nominations/none of the above on all ballots."

I doubt if we will get "none of the above", but we do need AV (alternative vote) for Constables, STV (single transferable vote)for Deputies or we will not have a complete democratic reform, but only a half-way house. First past the post is a system that is past its sell by date. It might have been acceptable in the past, but not any more. The case of the UK shows this clearly, where a party like the Liberals can get around 30% of the vote, and translate that into between 15 to 30 seats, which is wholly disproportionate.  That was the second part of the Commission's recommendations, and let's hope they don't get dropped like parts of Clothier were. And this Referendum shows the public are perfectly capable of making ranked choices, and the Parishes of counting them.

Of course, there will be criticism that Constables elections will be largely uncontested, but the problem is simply solved: contest them. To complain on the wings about elections being uncontested, and not mounting a challenge is not an option.

This Referendum was a vote for Reform, but only the start. Without a reform of voting systems as well, it will not be satisfactory in representing the people standing for election.

1 comment:

Nick Palmer said...

To truly hear the voice of the people we need compulsory voting. This would require, as a minimum, a "none of the above" box and preferably a negative vote too, applicable to those one thinks shouldn't get their hands anywhere near the levers of power.