Monday, 10 October 2011

Pre-Poll irregularities? First time voters confused and influenced by Judicial Greffe staff.

How can six unconnected individuals intending to vote for a single candidate in the Deputy election come away from polling having voted for four candidates as Senator and three candidates as Deputy? The answer has to be undue influence on the frail and inexperienced.

I consider that I have been unduly prejudiced by Pre-Poll polling methods used by the Judicial Greffe at the Pre-Poll office at St Paul’s Gate, New Street. My competitors have gained votes at my expense through their behaviour. Is this policy or incompetence?

Here is an interview with Rebecca. She is a highly credible and self confident woman. I will be running a separate interview with her on the stereotyping of single mums surviving on welfare benefits. She explains exactly what is wrong with the current pre-poll system, which serves only to intimidate and confuse first time voters. Is it any wonder that vast numbers of working class people do not vote when this is what they have to contend with?

Set out beneath is my letter of complaint sent to the Assistant Judicial Greffier, Advocate Paul Matthews and copied to Constable Julliet Gallichan, chair of the Policies and Procedures Committee.

I fully expect the Jersey media to ignore this issue. I advised BBC Radio Jersey some time ago of the potential problems and to date it has not been mentioned. A short report on today’s morning news programme covering pre-polling merely reported “all was well”. I wait to see if this issue is now taken seriously.

“Dear Paul,

Further to our various meetings you have asked me to submit in writing the nature of my concerns as to the advice being given to voters that seek to pre-poll.

I have since spoken with the Constable of St Mary, the chair of PPC and have copied her in to this correspondence.

I had to reflect before sending this letter. I had hoped that our informal meeting and discussion would have resulted in new instructions being issued to the staff sufficient to prevent a repetition. Clearly nothing has changed and no new procedures have been implemented. I now have two further examples of individuals that voted last Friday and this morning that have been influenced and confused by the staff at the pre poll vote.

My concern is based on several unconnected examples which tend to suggest there is a systemic problem. These cases suggest that influence by the staff at the poll and those collecting votes by home visits, are inducing voters to:

  1. cast more votes than they might otherwise and/or
  2. vote in an election (Senators) of which they have no knowledge and/or
  3. vote for candidates about which they know nothing

In particular I would refer you to the interview with Miss Rebecca [A] on my blogsite She lives at [ ]  and is an elector in District No.1 St Helier. Here she explains in most lucid terms the nature of the influence of which I complain.

I canvassed Rebecca on Sunday 9th October. She agreed to be interviewed on the treatment of single mothers and stereotyping, which can also be viewed on my blog. I interviewed her this Monday. Having finished the interview and as I was in the process of leaving her flat, she declared she had voted that morning. She explains how she went to St Paul’s centre with the intention of voting exclusively for me. She left having cast votes for four candidates in the Senatorial election and three for Deputy in St Helier No.1. This was all brought about by the influence and confusion caused by the staff in dealing with a first time voter.

On Friday, Mrs [B] of [ ]  went to vote exclusively for me in the Deputy elections and left having voted in both Senatorial elections for four candidates and three candidates in the St Helier District No.1 Mrs [B] freely volunteered all information to me and agrees that it be divulged.

Mrs [B] is a Russian. English is her second language but she has a good command. She is a British citizen.

She states that she voted for four Senatorial candidates and three Deputy candidates because she felt pressurized by the pre-poll staff.

She cast her four votes in the Senatorial election in a random fashion, precisely because she knows none of the candidates. She picked four names at random. She voted for four because she felt under pressure to do so. Prior to attending she had no idea about the Senatorial election or the maximum number of candidates she might vote for. Likewise in the Deputy election she did not know the maximum number of votes that might be cast.

When it came to voting in the Deputy election she says she agonized to find three people to vote for. She voted for me as that was her intention at inception. She interpreted the instructions of the staff as a command that she must vote for three candidates. She therefore felt she had to find another two names. She chose Paul Le Claire because she knows he has a Russian wife, albeit she had no intention to vote for him and does not agree with the policies he has expressed as reported in the Jersey Evening Post newspaper. Her third vote was for James Baker. She chose him because he was “a handsome young man”. Apparently there is a board in the Pre Poll rooms with pictures of the candidates and some information.

Directional advice

In question is the directional advice by staff that voters may “vote for up to 4 candidates” in the Senatorial and “up to 3 candidates” in the Deputy Election in District No.1 St Helier. The voters in my three examples set out below all took this language of direction or instruction to mean that they MUST vote for four or three candidates respectively. Even those who understood they need not vote for the maximum but could vote for fewer, still felt under an obligation to vote for a least one candidate.

The issue here is a psychological one. Some people with no experience of voting are susceptible to influence by staff members as they represent “authority” figures. In an unfamiliar environment people tend to obey or at least be deferential to those that exercise power. It is therefore extremely important for electors not to be disadvantaged and/or prejudiced and to understand the precise meaning of the Instructions/Directions given to voters.

Example 1: First time voter; single mother and Portuguese

Miss [C] and Mrs [D] live in [District No.1 St Helier]. Following canvassing and having convinced both that I would assist single mothers and the Portuguese community, they determined they would vote for me. Neither have voted either in Jersey or their native Portugal. I arranged a time and date to drive them to the pre-poll.

Before they polled I ascertained that neither wished to vote in the Senatorial election and that they knew none of the candidates. One woman had vaguely heard of Stuart Syvret. I did not wish to trouble them with explaining about the Senatorial election. They were content to vote for me. One wrote my name on the back of her hand to ensure she did not forget my name.

I drove both to St Paul’s gate and indicated where they should go. They returned to the car and freely volunteered how they voted in both the Deputy election and that for Senators.

They say that they were given the ballot for both Senatorial and Deputy elections. They cast their votes in the booth set aside for private voting. They found the name “Le Cornu” on the Deputy ballot and duly cast a vote. However, when it came to the Senatorial ballot they were expecting to find my name but it was not there. They then became perplexed and confused. This is not surprising as I am not a candidate for Senator.

Miss [C] cast four votes in the Senatorial election putting crosses in the top four boxes on the ballot and Mrs [D] cast only one vote in the Senatorial by placing a cross in the third box from the bottom. Neither have any knowledge of the candidates for whom they voted in the Senatorial election. Neither realised that there was such a thing as a Senatorial election.

Mrs [D] indicates to me that she felt under a certain unacceptable/unreasonable degree of pressure to cast a vote on the Senatorial ballot. She realised that my name did not appear and that there was no one who she knew to vote for. However, she had the presence of mind to put one cross in a box as she realised this would satisfy the staff and she could then leave. Had the electoral staff not given instructions to her to vote for the Senatorial elections – she would not have felt under a sense of duress and thus seeming intimidation.

The most important point was that at NO point whilst the electors at the Polling Station was it explained by the staff that they did not have to vote for anyone in the Senatorial election and that they could simply strike through the part in relation to Senators.

Both intelligent electors told me that they were confused by the white Senatorial ballot as they expected to find my name and did not. The electoral staff were telling them as in INSTRUCTING them very firmly “You may vote for up to 4 (four) candidates in the Senatorial election and up to 3 (three) in the Deputy election.” Both felt under severe pressure to cast a vote.  Mrs [D] understood that she did not know any of the candidates and simply put one cross randomly on the ballot and thus, as she perceived it, satisfying the electoral staff that they had completed the ballot. Ms [C] says that she likewise did not know any of the candidates, but because she was expected to do something with the ballot, she put four crosses randomly starting at the top of the form. [As if she was completing some form in a Sovereign State Lottery!]

Clearly, based on the evidence, both electors were induced and felt compelled to vote in an election of which they did not realise existed and for candidates of which they knew nothing.

Example 4: Neighbour and first time voter

[Mr E] is a neighbour in the block of flats where I live. […..].

I asked [Mr E]  to vote for me at the commencement of the campaign and advised him about pre-polling facilities. He indicated he was happy to vote for me alone, as I was a neighbour and had helped him in the past. [Mr E]  is a first time voter.

On Monday 19th September 2011, he went independently to St Paul’s Gate to pre-poll. He did not have photo ID and was denied the right to vote. He was told he would be sent “a postal vote”. He told me this on Tuesday. Hearing me in the corridor of our flat he came out especially to tell me the news of his abortive voting attempt. I do not understand why he was simply not told to return with the correct ID. You may wish to investigate this issue.

In the afternoon of Wednesday 20th September I happened to be riding my bicycle through the car park at the back of my block of flats when I saw a small black Mercedes car parked awkwardly in the middle of the area. I spotted my neighbour [Mr E] who hailed me. He was in the process of casting his vote.

He told me later that he had been telephoned by a woman taking pre-poll votes and drove her motor car into the car park, in which she waited. She had checked his driving licence which he proffered as identity.

I rode up on my bicycle at the very moment she was passing through the open car window a clip board and the ballot for Deputy Elections in St Helier No.1. [Mr E]  engaged me in conversation and I was able to see and hear all that transpired. I did not in any way seek to influence the outcome and only later introduced myself to the woman.

As the clip board and ballot were passed through the window of the car, the woman asked [Mr E]  “You didn’t want to vote in the Senatorial election, you only asked for the Deputy election?” This was said in a way that had he indicated he wished to vote in the Senatorial election, he would have been there and then provided with the Senatorial Ballot. [Mr E]  said firmly that he only wanted the ballot for Deputy.

I saw [Mr E] complete the ballot for Deputy, but did not see who he voted for. I suspected he had voted for one candidate only, as he completed the action very rapidly and with the confidence and certainty that he knew exactly for whom he was voting. The woman saw him vote for only one candidate and said to him “you may vote for up to 3 (three) candidates”. At this point [Mr E]  began struggling mentally. He hesitated and from his reactions it was clear to me that he was obliged to start thinking deeply as to what this meant. The question clearly caused him some confusion. He could not understand why he was being asked to vote for more candidates. He paused and said to the woman that he only wanted to vote for one person and handed back the clip board. I think I recall the woman asking him to put the ballot in the envelope provided.

Had [Mr E]  been less resolute, he might have accepted a ballot for the Senatorial election and he might have voted for more than one candidate for Deputy. He clearly felt under some sort of obligation to do as he was commanded by the woman. In my opinion, although jolly and polite, she spoke with authority, dominant as if her voice was communicating words of command.

Example 5: Elderly experienced voters

On my way to canvas Maison La Corderie, a residential home for the elderly in Rope Walk in the electoral constituency of St Helier No. 1, I met two residents aged at what I estimated to be in their seventies sitting outside, enjoying the sun. I engaged them in conversation and ascertained that one [Mrs F] had applied for a pre-poll sick visit, but had missed out in casting her vote the previous day when 10 (ten) others in the home had been polled, by virtue of she being off the premises at the time. The second woman [Mrs G] had not applied to pre-poll. Both had voted in the past and were keen to vote. I offered to take them to St Pauls Gate to vote and they readily agreed.

Before we left, I sought to ascertain their level of political awareness. I asked if they would be voting in the Senatorial election. They said firmly “No”. I asked them if they had ever heard of Stuart Syvret; neither had. I presumed that they would not be voting in the Senatorial election if they had never heard of this famous Jersey politician.

As regards the Deputy election in St Helier No.1, I ascertained that both were registered at Maison La Corderie and both were eligible to vote. I explained the essence of my politics and they were broadly in agreement, sufficient to vote for me. I handed them an enlarged version of the ballot paper listing the names of the eight candidates so that they might see who was standing. They both scrutinized the list to see if there was anyone they knew. [Mrs F] had vaguely heard of Mr Pitman, but on further enquiry the person she knew was a former senior civil servant, now deceased. Essentially, they had no preferred candidate for Deputy other than me.

We duly arrived at St Paul’s Gate where they made their way to the polling office on the first floor. Having voted, they returned to my car and freely recounted their voting adventure. Both had voted in the Senatorial election for four candidates and for three candidates in the Deputy election.

On arrival in the voting office they had been asked “Do you wish to vote in both the senatorial and deputy election?” They said yes. What they should have said was that they wished to vote only in the Deputy election. They probably did not realise that by answering in the affirmative to the specific question they would receive both ballots.

The staff advised them that they could vote for “up to four candidates” in the Senatorial and “up to three” in the Deputy elections. This advice was repeated several times by various people including a male member of electoral staff.

When I asked them subsequently why they had voted in the Senatorial election, they replied that they did not know why. I asked them if they knew who they had voted for. Neither could remember, but they had voted for four candidates each. They were not being coy or reticent. Nor were they being secretive, as is their prerogative. They did not remember because the candidate’s names meant nothing.

When I asked them why they had voted for three candidates in the Deputy election [Mrs G] said that she had voted for three candidates but had only really wanted to vote for one and that person was me. When I pressed her as to why if she only wished to vote for one person she had in fact voted for three, she could not explain. She continued to repeat, “I wish I had only voted for one”.

Both women were placed in a situation where they felt obliged to follow the authoritative command of the staff and vote for three and four candidates respectively in Senatorial and Deputy elections. They knew nothing of the candidates for Senator yet voted for four. They only knew about myself and [Mrs F] had vaguely heard of Mr Pitman, yet both voted for three candidates for Deputy. They did not comprehend the words “you may vote for up to …” as simple non-directional advice; they perceived it as a command, an order they must obey.


I feel convinced that based on the directional instructional form of words communicated to several electors within the constituency in which I am standing, St Helier No. 1, that I was personally disadvantaged, prejudiced, discriminated against, so that electors who had previously declared a clear and unequivocal intention to support me and no other candidates found themselves swayed to change their voting intention by the electoral staff who misrepresented and/or misdirected the electorate by not communicating the fact that it was possible to vote for one person in the Deputy or Senator elections or none at all. I consider that votes cast exclusively for my candidature were thereby diluted by the votes for other candidates – thereby prejudicing and discriminating against the number of votes returned for my candidacy in these elections for Deputy within my constituency.   

I reserve my position in relation to these above mentioned votes should it become an issue in the final count.”


  1. Excellent interview

  2. I am sorry, but if these people are so stupid and cannot be bothered to find out about the elections they should not be voting.

    There has been plenty about the elections in the JEP and on the Radio.

  3. These people are not stupid. Many are first time voters. They have no experience. To be honest they are not expected to make judements in life at all. As workers, they are expected simply to perfom and obey, not choose.

    Everyone has the right to vote. It ought to be noted that those voting regularly often cast their votes in the most bizarre fashion, frequently on a whim. In a personalised political system the colour of tie or age are more important than policies.

    I am taking two more first time voters to pre-poll tomorrow. I hope all goes well.They are voting for me exclusively because I have convinced them I will pursue policies that will benefit people like them. They do not know the other candidates. None have knocked on their doors. None took the time or showed interest to win their hearts and minds. If they end up being bamboozled into voting for other candidates I will be annoyed.

  4. I know very well Nick that you cannot afford the advertising and promotions that many other candidates can, but no one has knocked on as many doors as you have, I wish you every success in your quest to be a Deputy.