Friday, 26 April 2013

Abysmal Referendum 14% Turnout in District 1 St Helier, yet by 2 to 1 they vote ‘Option A’

The manual worker erecting the voting booths in the Town Hall just before voting opened at 8 am lives in District 1 but he had no intention of voting and indeed neither was he registered to do so. “There is no point voting” he said “they have decided what they want and they will get it anyway.” That was the somewhat cynical yet worldly wisdom of a member of Jersey’s working class.

We all love to despise those that do not vote. We do so because we do vote and we consider ourselves superior for doing so. Yet that worker had an insight we voters had all missed. We were being railroaded into a Referendum where very few understood the real issues and so many had been spun a line by the Option B campaign that the Parish as an institution was about to come crashing down if their beloved Constables no longer had an automatic right to sit in the States. Option B spent most of its time in misleading emotional appeals designed to disguise true intentions. 

With an 85% voter abstention in St Helier and 75% island wide, the result, with Option B declared "the winner", is devoid of meaning or legitimacy. None of that matters of course, since this was a plebiscite for the public to be seen to seemingly endorse Option B.

The bare bones of Option B were the ones Senator Bailhache declared he wanted on the Senatorial Hustings, pushed through on the Electoral Commission and reiterated during the campaign. It was also government policy, being endorsed by Senator Gorst in a specially arranged hearing of the EC. Had there not been democrats on the Electoral Commission and Senator Bailhache had had his way, the Referendum question would simply have been Option B yes or no, without A or C as alternatives. Since C is the status quo and A the only fair design for a reformed electoral system, B represents a gross gerrymander. One suspects turnout would have been less and I would have been campaigning against any change, since B just makes the situation worse.

The Privileges and Procedures Committee met yesterday and has now "pushed the button" to prepare the legislation for implementation of Option B. 

This indecent haste is to meet the tight timeline to the 2014 elections. In the meantime there will be many opportunities to prevent this abomination. The forces of Democracy are mustering.

In fact yesterday, the only sensible political conversation I had was with three French tourists who came up to the polling station entrance intrigued by the occurrence of an election. They turned out to be Socialist Party supporters and they understood immediately that only Option A was democratic and that Option B was a sham. They had the same sort of problems with the right in France. Progress there was also slow and a hard fought battle. They understood because they were political beings.

The Referendum results

These are the results of the first preference count in District 1:

Option A – 464
Option B – 214
Option C -    97

Even though the election was on an AV system designed to achieve an overall winner, in terms of legitimacy only those first preferences have much meaning.

I await the full breakdown from the Greffe of the Option C second preference votes, as these were not announced separately by the Jurat, and consequently cannot comment how these altered the position in District 1. Suffice to say, it is reassuring that overall St Helier voted 2 to 1 in favour of Option A, displaying a healthy democratic spirit. This difference in temperament is of course attributable to social class and wealth, though some may have instinctively understood St Helier was going to loose out dramatically in terms of under representation through Option B.

District 1 historically has the lowest turnout and highest voter abstention in the Island, so it was no surprise to see the final turnout figure of 14%. In St Helier it was a 16.75% turnout, with ‘Option A’ taking 1760 votes, B 932 and C 452 after the count of second preference votes.

I had to laugh at Senator Ozouf’s attempt to explain away the poor 26% turnout islandwide in the Referendum as owing to an electoral role that had not been properly weeded. That might be because there is no Electoral Registrar for the whole island with a department tasked with maintaining its accuracy. Back we come to the deficiencies of the Parish Administration. In addition there are around 8000 eligible people who are not on the role having not registered to vote.

Election irregularities

I was the scrutineer throughout the polling and count on behalf of the A Campaign in the Town Hall where District 1 polled and all the St Helier votes were counted. I did not see any issues to raise concern except one matter that was brought to my attention subsequently by an external source. This is now under consideration as an official complaint. More later.

Spoilt votes

On a lighter note, it is the spoilt votes that always interest me. I expected a lot more than there were, which indicates that voters were not fazed by any complexities of AV and casting second preferences. Some were spoilt deliberately with comments such as “None of the above” and “none of the below”. 

The real cracker has to one ballot across which was scribbled “Get rid of Pitman”. One can only imagine the mind of someone prepared to waste their vote just to make such a statement about one of their current Deputies. This of course is what the Referendum and Option B is all about; getting rid of what Senator Bailhache described as "the wreckers". Deputy Trevor Pitman is a hardworking politicians who takes seriously his work in the constituency and in the States, asking questions that embarasses those that exercise power. 

Interestingly that ballot did not say "get rid of Baker". Deputy Baker, is a poll topping representative for District 1 St.Helier. He got elected on the basis that his father had been Constable of St Helier and had the Ouzoufite electoral machine to get him there. He has been a sad dissapointment, taking 6 months to make his maiden speech in the States Assembly, an embarassing omission that even the JEP had to make comment about. He may be useless, but he is loyal Party Fodder and always votes the right way.


  1. Another interesting blog post- thanks and well done.

  2. Manual worker eh,
    Do you mean that highly skilled man who can rotate shapes through 3 dimensions in his mind, use mathematics and geometry for practical applications, understand the mechanics and use of tools and is dexterous enough to apply that understanding (one of the things that distinguishes us from most other animals), is comfortable with basic engineering principles, safety issues, has remarkable mind body coordination, can interact with people from all ‘social levels’ and doesn’t confuse reason with bullsh*t. Oh yes, I bet he can push a pen and use a keyboard as well. There are those, I’m not suggesting you here Nick, who use the term Manual worker as some kind of put down, usually they are the types who produce nothing.


  3. I fully endorse your sentiment. Working people are always disparaged and their skills unrecognised.

  4. Awful biased assessment I'm afraid.

    Would you be decrying the 'meaning or legitimacy ' of Option A had it triumphed ?

    I note you dislike the 'emotional appeals' put forward by Option B supporters. Are you certain there were no similar emotional appeals put forward by the A Group ?

    The PPC have their mandate, based on a democratic outcome of the referendum. Why would you want them to incur further time and financial costs delaying the implementation of the public's desired changes ? And would you be so keen to see a delay if Option A had won ?

    I would say the 'Forces of Democracy' have already mustered, and having done their job, have now disbanded. What 'Forces of Democracy' are you referring to that would want to overturn a democratic referendum ?

    The socialist party in power in France (Following on the back of previous socialist governments in France) are presently wrecking the country, borrowing at unprecedented levels, raising taxes to levels which are causing an exodus of wealth, and driving manufacturing and services abroad because of intransigence on reducing employment costs. If your only sensible political conversation was with 3 French people who support this desecration of their country, then you have low expectations.

    Is it really appropriate for an election scrutineer (and a lawyer at that) to be revealing publicly the content of ballot papers ?

    Deputy Baker may be well connected. He may also be friends with Ozouf. He also may, in your eyes, have been a disappointment thus far, and may indeed be 'useless'. However he was elected on the basis of a Democratic election, democracy being the cornerstone of everything you believed in I thought. He was not elected on the basis of anything else. Perhaps your own inability to get elected is clouding your judgement here somewhat ?

    1. Answering you paragraph by paragraph.

      1. That is your subjective opinion to which you are entitled.

      2. Lets be honest and recognise the political class would never willingly implement Option A, since it created a fair and level playing field for all. It would then be up to the various sides to mobilize their supporters to vote. This was unacceptable because it was problematic. They preferred a solution that was fixed in advance – loaded dice - that allowed them to always win the majority of elections by foul means. They did it by gerrymandering the electoral districts. This is what Option B is all about. It produces under representation for the urban areas – places where the working class and middle class live- wage and salary earners.

      Option B is simply not a fair electoral system. No honest government would ever promote such a scheme, unless it happened to be called Northern Ireland and the idea was to create an Orange State that kept Nationalist minorities at bay politically.

      3. The appeals made by the A campaign were rational logical not emotional (irrational). There was a lot of scaremongering by B – "your rates will rise if the Constables are not paid by the States"; "the Parish system will collapse if the automatic right to sit in the States is removed"; "the Reds will murder you in you bed, so you had better keep the Constable in his safe sinecure".

      4. The Referendum was wholly inconclusive. The turnout was abysmal, which means the result lacks any legitimacy. The Privy Council are not going to accept the argument this is a mandate for retaining the Constables automatically in the States in the face of the obvious democratic inadequacies. In the first round the vote was roughly equally split. In Town they voted A by two to one. The 85% voter abstention shows the system is critically broken and moreover the goverment is incapable of its remedy beacuse it lacks the will. Its Sark all over again.(When Adrian Lee on BBC Radio Jersey mentioned events in Sark, poor Matthew Price was so stunned he had to shut him up and start playing a record. That indicated he had touched a raw nerve. Incidentally, our autonomy is not an excuse for the political class to oppress islanders with impunity)

      Trying to play the democratic outcome line shows a weakness and desire to cover up the fact that 85% of the islands potential voters were not inspired by B otherwise they would have turned out to embrace Salvation.

      Had A won everything would be done to prevent it's implementation. It is vital to introduce a Single Transferable Voting system to give real weight to the most popular being elected in multiple seat constituencies. Bailhache has said he does not want this in 2014, only in 2018. This is because it may produce a problematic result. STV must be pushed for the 2014 elections.

      There is indecent haste to get B through because there is a realisation that Senators are dead. The bolt hole back to a safe Parish seat is not available in a single election day (its amazing what a chilling effect a General Election on a single day has on the elite) and the number of Senators is being reduced. Some will loose their seats. Senator Ozouf is particularly worried about his unpopularity and needs a safe Country seat.

      5. The Forces of Democracy are just about to get going, propelled by a new solidarity and awareness that Option B is the iron road to Serfdom.

    2. 6. The French Socialist Party tourists were spot on because they are political people. They think and breath politics.

      7. No confidences are breached by stating what absurdities get written on spoilt ballot papers. Those that spoilt them are probably quite pleased that someone took notice of what they wrote. There is another serious matter that may become an official complaint. That will go through the correct channels..

      8. Deputy Baker was legitimately elected. It is sad that he has been of such poor value to the electors of District 1. I wonder how many are reflecting on that choice? Few probably. Voting for the son because the dad was great is logically flawed – the cult of the personality Jersey style gets in the way.

    3. "potential voters were not inspired by B otherwise they would have turned out to embrace Salvation". Applies to A as well?

    4. "The French Socialist Party tourists were spot on because they are political people. They think and breath politics."

      So do members of all parties?

    5. "Voting for the son because the dad was great is logically flawed"

      Are you a mind reader?

    6. Jersey has no political parties. As it did not elect an MP to Westminster the UK parties did not worry about Jersey or the other Channel Islands. Had they done so there would have been a different poltical culture and the Jersey Bean would think in similar ways to their UK counterparts dependant on their social class, which is the determining factor for political consciousness.

  5. I didn't ask whether thought the political class would implement option a. I asked whether you would be decrying the legitimacy of A if it had won, even by a slender margin. Please answer the question as asked.

    Would you also be saying that he result was inconclusive If A had won ? Again, please answer the question asked.

    What do you call the people who turned out to vote, and made a democratic choice as stipulated by the referendum. What is democratic about attempting to overturn their democratic choice ? Your forces may be gathering, but their agenda is not democratic if they are seeking to overturn the democratic will of the voters.

    The French socialists may be 'political people' but I fail to see why this makes them spot on ? They may be completely mistaken about many things, and indeed their party in France is making a terrible hash of their economy.

    I wouldn't want you discussing the way I had voted in public, and I imagine many people would feel the same way, even if you feel your actions are legitimate.

    How very presumptuous of you to assume that baker was elected just because his father was constable. Maybe voters simply preferred his vision and ability to connect with the electorate more than other candidates. I also wonder, if the shoe was on the other foot, whether he would be spending his time writing blog posts criticising your performance ?

    You are obviously very bitter that mr baker was successful at his first attempt to get elected, but for gods sake man, have a bit of dignity

    1. If only Deputy Baker had a blog; that way the electorate would be able to find out what he is doing and hold him accountable by asking questions.

      You are anonymous. I have no idea who you are. You care not to use your real identity and I indulgently permit you. Likewise I have no idea how you voted unless you tell me. Why do you not have the courage to reveal your true identity? Anonymous comments have less validity. The anonymity of the voters behind the spoilt votes remains.

      Amongst the various Option campaigns only Option A saw fit to send scrutineers to the polling and counts. Likewise at election time many candidates do not realise the importance of sending representatives. The last election in District 1 St Helier saw 5 votes between third and fourth place; between success and failure. Neither candidate was represented during the polling and count. When the Royal Court considered the results they ordered a recount and found it to be robust, but suggested the Jurat announce the result to candidates or their representatives privately before the formal public announcement, in order that objections could be put in case of dispute. Such issues might include the closeness of the vote or disputed spoilt papers.

      I am aware of an election irregularity that may or may not have made a difference to one vote. I was not in the poll for the entire day and the alleged incident occurred during an absence. Had there been other scrutineers present continuously it would not have occurred.

      As they say in Ireland: "Its not who does the voting, its who does the counting."

      Try to stick to the issues rather than shooting the messenger; it is a lot more interesting to other readers than title tattle or personal abuse.

  6. If it makes my posts more valid somehow, then my name is John Smith and you are indeed kind to indulge me. So I ask again

    would be decrying the legitimacy of A if it had won, even by a slender margin ?

    Would you also be saying that he result was inconclusive If A had won ?

    Why do you believe it is democratic to try and overturn the result of a democratic referendum ?

    And just to clarify, if you read my comments, you will not find any objection to you or anybody else acting as an invigilator at election counts. I also find your explanation of the role, and necessity, of invigilators to be un-necessary, and not of any relevance to my objection, which is that you believe it is appropriate to reveal details of any of the ballot papers you have been privileged to see as part of your role.

    I have attempted to stick to the point, and find it odd that you find the personalisation of issues to be so objectionable, given your initial comments about mr baker ?

    1. As for invigilating you obviously missed the irony in my quip "It’s not who does the voting, it’s who does the counting". An incident that is about to become an official complaint will illustrate why scrutineers are important, so watch this space.

      Rigging elections is commonplace in many places in the world. I can thing of Ukraine and the Orange Revolution that resulted from an attempt by government officials to falsify results. What they did not realise was that the security services were wise to their tricks and spotted the exact moment the incorrect figures were put onto the central results computer. Needless to say the perpetrator of this crime is now President of Ukraine. He is also a convicted rapist.

      There is no need to rig elections in Jersey as not voting is the norm and loyal voters can be relied upon to vote for government candidates. It produces a result except it has all gone very wrong in this Referendum. 85% of St Helier did not vote and 75% of the island electorate. So we have mass voter abstention combined with a split vote. That is no mandate for anything.

      You will recall that Senator Bailhache on BBC Radio Jersey described the Referendum as a “glorified opinion poll”. So it is and nothing more since so few turned out to vote. The result lacks legitimacy. You recognise this but avoid the logic of the message sent by the non voting public – we do not trust you; we will not be made fools of in a Referendum whose result will only be honoured depending on whether it suits your needs. Had A won the “glorified opinion poll” argument would have been deployed for sure.

      Option B is simply not ECHR compliant. So arrogant are the elite that they believe they can get past a new electoral system that is a gerrymander of the first order. One does not design an electoral system and build in unfairness and inequality. Only in Jersey does government act with such impunity. B is not a level playing field or even a nod to the concept, it is a fix. Consequently the idea of allowing it to proceed cannot be tolerated and we are all correct to resist. Go back and start again using the democratic principles set out in the preamble to the EC final report.

  7. I'm really very disappointed that you have chosen to ignore my quite reasonable questions. Much as you might feel you are 'indulging' anonymous commentators, they are similarly indulging you by bothering to comment, in a relatively polite manner, on your blog, which without such patronage simply becomes a diatribe written by one man to an audience who will blindly support whatever you say, and from which neither author nor audience need reconsider entrenched views,or learn anything new.

    If the latter is what you are aiming for, then good luck with running another repetitive left wing blog which is indistinguishable from most others in its unfailing inability to consider an alternative viewpoint, but to begin to engage with somebody who doesn't share your views, and then immediately pull the plug when the questions get challenging, shows a lack of fortitude.

    I'm not being rude, I'm not needlessly insulting you, I'm not using bad language, so whatever reason could you have for ignoring the questions asked ?

    What sort of site do you really want to run Nick ?

    1. Thanks. This is reasoned argument. I am flattered that you engage in an intelligent fashion; so many of the blogs attract comments that do not in any way advance our understanding.

      Because Jersey is an island of Daily Mail readers, even those that see themselves critical of government policy are unable to look outside that right wing paradigm and constantly frustrate themselves when proposed solutions fail to work There needs to be a new analysis and from that might come solutions that bring positive change.

  8. Maybe the right wing paradigm is not perfect but the majority of people, Daily Mail readers or not, are simply not inspired by any alternatives.

    Come up with a credible alternative and maybe you will see some support, in the mean time, the majority (who are much more intelligent than you would like to believe) will keep on doing the right thing for Jersey.

    1. 75% islandwide said no thanks to Option B, the gerrymander.

  9. Nick,

    No one's listening mate.

  10. I think it is time you accepted the vote of the Island.
    There are changes coming with less seats for the people to go for but this is what has been demanded for so long.
    It should give us better candidates who need at least 2,000 + votes to get elected and more competition for the Seats on Constable.
    I am pleased Option B won as it should make the State better in the long run and more democratic.

  11. The lady doth protest to much, methinks. Do I detect an anxiety that Option has a serious legitimacy problem?

    Between equal rights force decides.