Two years ago, the Electoral Reform Society looked at the island of Guernsey’s new voting system where voters had to choose up to 38 candidates in a single island-wide ‘thirty-eight past the post’ election. But unusual plurality voting systems aren’t something unique to Guernsey, but something of a Channel Islands tradition. Last Wednesday (22nd June), voters in Jersey elected the 49 members of the States Assembly using a slightly reformed version of their equally unique system. So let’s take a closer look at Jersey’s voting system, the results of the election and where Jersey could go from here.
The Old and New Systems
Jersey’s previous voting system involved three different types of members being elected using three versions of First Past the Post style plurality voting. The most numerous type were the deputies, who made up 29 of the 49 members of the States. Deputies were elected in 18 districts covering Jersey – half of which elected one deputy, with the others choosing two, three or four. Voters had as many votes as there were seats to fill, this is often known as the Bloc Vote.
The second largest group were the twelve connétables, who were elected by First Past the Post in each of Jersey’s twelve parishes. The final eight members were the senators, chosen in a single island-wide Bloc Vote, with each voter having eight votes.
The new system doesn’t remove all the flourishes of its predecessor, but it does simplify the system somewhat. Senators have been abolished, with the number of deputies being expanded to compensate. The number of districts has also been reduced to nine with all deputies now being elected in multi-member constituencies of three, four or five members. The connétable system remains, including the fact that the largest parish is more than seven times as populous the smallest.
A smaller reform is the introduction of a ‘None of the Above’ option where the number of candidates is the same as the number of seats to fill. Previous Jersey elections had seen many members, particularly connétables, being returned unopposed.
Political parties come to Jersey
This election, though, wasn’t just notable for the introduction of a new voting system, but also for being Jersey’s first multi-party election. Historically, Jersey’s politics was partyless – with all politicians being elected and governing as independents. But there has been growing dissatisfaction with the opaqueness and difficulty of keeping track of so many independents. The centre-left Reform Jersey party was founded in 2014 and contested the last two elections – winning 3 seats in 2014 and 5 in 2018. This time, they were joined by the centre-right Jersey Alliance, the Jersey Liberal Conservatives and the centrist Progress Party – the latter two running in coalition with each other.
2022 Jersey election results
Despite its small scale, the election more than made up for it in headlines. Although independents still make up the overwhelming majority of members, all parties managed to gain representation in the States, with Reform Jersey doubling their number of seats to ten. It was also a record night in terms of the number of women elected, with 43% of the new assembly, including a majority of deputies, being women (up from 29%). The vote also saw Jersey’s Chief Minister, John Le Fondre, lose his seat.
* Vote is based on deputy elections only.
However, as to be expected with a plurality election, the result was somewhat skewed by the voting system – with seat shares deviating from vote shares by 14%, slightly less that the 17% deviation seen at the last UK general election. The three newer parties faced the brunt of this underrepresentation, with the 22% of the vote they won netting them only 8% of seats.
Jersey, and the wider Channel Islands, have shown a clear appetite for electoral reform in the last few years, but, even a simplified plurality system will still lead to unfair, distorted results.