Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Voter registration skids on King Street. - All registered to vote but no one to vote for.

Those wishing to vote in the October elections must register by Noon on Monday 5th September. To encourage registration, staff of the Judicial Greffe were out in King Street today between midday and 2pm.

The seven Greffe staff members, journalists from Channel TV, BBC TV and bloggers from and Tom Gruchy, outnumbered potential voters wishing to register. CTV studiously ignored blogger media, but a sparkle in the eye of a pretty BBC journalist acknowledged our presence.

The day’s haul was a meager five additional completed voted registration forms. That said the Greffe Staff showed enthusiasm and gave out a lot of forms and leaflets to potential voters. Well done for a first effort!

Most of those passing through King Street on their lunch hour were too busy to stop and chat. A smile and a nod confirmed either they were already registered to vote or too polite and indifferent other than to mouth the words “Yes, I am registered”

I spoke to a woman Bank worker that said she had completed her forms and was registered to vote, but would not be voting. I asked her why. She candidly said she did not know who was standing or what they represented. I then asked her in which Parish she lived and she replied – Trinity, to which I quipped that in Trinity they do not anyway have contested elections. She smiled in recognition that Democracy in Trinity did not exist. How could she vote if there are no contested elections for Deputy or Constable! What was the point of even being registered?

The voter registration campaign is a positive venture and is to be encouraged. It is an attempt by the authorities to address the high voter abstention. It is alas mere tokenism. There needs to be fundamental review of the process of compiling the roll and the establishement of an island-wide Registration Officer, tasked with accuracy and numbers.

The Greffe team will be out again in King Street in a few weeks time advertising the pre-poll facility available from 19th September to 17th October at St Paul’s Gate, New Street, Monday to Friday 10am to 4.30pm.

My experience in District No.1 St Helier is that at least another 25% on top of those on the electoral roll are not registered. Most households have received a voter registration form from the Town Hall, but did not return it for reasons of laziness, indifference or ignorance, or a combination of all those factors. This substantially increase the real level of abstention, which currently stands at around 75%. All politicians, save myself, seem to be totally indifferent. Political science concepts like legitimacy of government pass over their heads.

The real reason people do not register and then go on to vote, is that expressed by the Bank worker from Trinity – they do not understand how individual candidates can in any fashion represent their social and economic interests. To overcome this we need to undertake a political re-education of the working people. It starts at school and continues for life. However in Jersey the whole system is designed to politically anesthetize voters. Trivialization and propaganda from government media sources, be it BBC Radio Jersey, CTV, JEP or 103, breed cynicism. Add to that an opaque unreformed political system with complex three categories of States Members and unsynchronized elections all adds up to abstention on a scale unprecedented in Western Europe.

I will continue my own voter registration campaign in St Helier District No1 – the hard way – door by door, woman by woman, man by man. I have to admit that I am quite good now. Give me a door and ten minutes and I will have the most cynical of eligible voters signing up to vote. Most are extremely polite and patient. Only one person so far has called me a “T*****r!”

That so few vote is a political problem. It is not a techical one about getting registered, although the complexities of the system do not help. During my personal door to door knocking I have to demolish years of incomprehension. People are not stupid. They do want Democracy and they do want a government that is responsive.  I have to explain that the Ozouf/Maclean/Cohen government are a group of millionaires doing the bidding of multi-millionaires and billionaires. When I say that on the doors it immediately raises a smile of empathy and comprehension. That is when I pull out the voter registration form. Invariably I leave with another smile that says "Thank you for taking the time to explain; I now know why I should be voting LE CORNU in the election for Deputy".


  1. Even some candidates still don't get it!
    The lack of voting credibility is based on fact.
    Until a substantial number of alternative "progressive" candidates are prepared to join together with an agreed agenda of policies that they promise to support - the thinking electorate will have no faith.
    They do not trust the traditional 53 (now minus two) and they will not vote in sufficient numbers because post-war history shows that a bunch of independent prima donnas simply will not deliver the goods. At least, not with any sense of equity.

    The States staff would be better off polishing the brass door handles outside the scrutiny panel rooms than standing around in King Street chatting up joe and jill public.

    Individual candidates have to do this because it is part of the democratic process but it should not be confused with getting public support for policies that do not have a hope in hades.

    Until progressive candidates speak with each other and present a menu before the public that can realistically be delivered then it is just the same old beauty versus the beasty parade.

    The sunshine was nice today - and for the moment it is still free!
    Tom Gruchy says.

  2. Which part of St. Helier is District 1?

  3. Do you think Jersey people living outside the island should be entitled to vote? I'm Jersey-born, have a Jersey passport (now without the 'not entitled to EU rights' stamp as I've been in the UK for more than 5 years), take a keen interest in local politics, and visit family several times a year. I know lots of other Jersey people around the world in a similar position. My friends and colleagues living in London who are Australian, New Zealand, American, Irish living in London all get to vote in their national elections. Jersey people not ordinarily resident could have their vote limited to senators ... or may be create a special constituency and let us have a deputy! Many of us are worried about what's happening in the Island. We have elderly relatives concerned about how they are going to manage. We have youngsters in our family who can't get jobs.

    What do you think, Nick?

  4. Can I at least be given a clue to the whereabouts of District 1?

  5. District No1 is an electoral area created from two vingtaines.

    Geographically it stretches from the Dicq up Mont Millais and Mont Pinel to the Girls College, swinging down Wellington Hill through Belmont Road, round the Arts Center, along Queen and King street and out to touch Gloucester street. It also includes the Waterfront, with Albert, Victoria, Harbour Reach and Castel Quay.

    This is the "auld sod" - la terre sainte.

  6. “Should Jersey people living outside the island be allowed to vote?”

    My answer in short in “No”. However ….

    Immediately after the Second World War a large number of islanders returned from the UK and many had served in the armed forces. They returned with an intention to reform the island’s institutions and revitalize the economy. There was also a newly energized working class movement that wanted similar reform and modernisation. Just as then, we need to throw out the “Good Old Boys” who are a disgrace to the island and who have blocked the way to social and constitutional reform.

    I know many islanders who refuse to return because it is politically stagnant, however nostalgic they may be of family, old friends and natural beauty. Our national Poet lives in London. A lot want to return, in part out of a sense of “giving something back” for the education they received that allowed them to travel the world.

    Let’s not get too chauvinistic. Jersey is now home for many people born in the UK, Portugal and Eastern Europe. Birth does not engender exclusive rights – it is commitment.

    Who better to ask about Nationalism and what it means than a Pole. The Polish nation existed for over a hundred years without a state, divided between Germany, Austrian and Imperial Russia.

    I recognise there is a diaspora outside the island. When they return to see mummy and daddy they tend to switch off their critical faculties. Institutions and behaviour that would be unacceptable in Montreal, London or “Oz” is tolerated and even praised. That is not why they were given an educatino to slip gently back into the "insular prejudices"