A new blog post is on it's way, but in the meantime, here is a letter I have sent to the JEP in response to this letter they printed today -
I write in response to the letter printed 09/04/13 from Mr Dominic Jones in which he asserts that the retention of the Constables as envisioned under Option B is consistent with the Venice Commission’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters. This is, as a matter of indisputable fact, 100% incorrect and cannot be left unanswered. In fact, the Chairmen of the Electoral Commission, Senator Sir Philip Bailhache, has himself admitted that reform under Option B provides for “worse voter equity” than the current electoral system, and the commission’s official advisor Dr Alen Renwick of the University of Reading used the exact words “The option of retaining Constables makes overall apportionment worse than at present and in multiple parishes violates the Venice Commission’s criterion” in his reports to the commission. That is not, as Mr Jones says, “evolution” but is regression.
The Venice Commission is a body set up by the Council of Europe (the organisation that governs human rights in Europe, including Jersey) that produced a report to explain the specifics of the concept of “fair elections” that is a fundamental and inalienable right under Protocol 1, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
The Venice Commission said that for elections to be fair, each voter must not only have the same number of votes, but those votes must have the same power. No voter should, by virtue of living in one constituency rather than another, have a vote that is significantly more or less powerful than someone else’s. That, as well as being a Venice Commission principle, is also common sense.
In practice, the Venice Commission said that each constituency must have a similar number of voters and that a constituency’s population should not be allowed to deviate more than 15% from the average constituency population.
Under Option B, half of the 6 new districts will be well out of this 15% limit. Though if you look at the Parishes as constituencies on their own, only one of the 12 Parishes is within the limit, with St Helier at 416% and St Mary at -80%. Option C is only slightly better than Option B as it is mitigated with the presence of the Senators, but it is still also incompatible with these limits. Under Option A, every single constituency fits comfortably in the 15% limit.
In a Constable election, a voter in St Mary is one of 1,340 voters, and therefore has a vote that is 20 times as powerful as a voter in a Constable election in St Helier who is one of 26,890 voters. That is, of course, if they are lucky enough to even have a vote, given that since 1999 over 70% of Constable elections have been uncontested.
This goes completely against the principles of the Venice Commission, the European Convention on Human Rights, and basic democracy where all voters should be equal.
Should Jersey adopt an unfair and unequal voting system such as that provided by Option B, we open our island up to the huge potential embarrassment of a legal challenge through the Privy Council and the European Court on Human Rights. We as an island community should be striving for more democracy, not less, and should be embracing the modern world and moving with the times so that we can remain a jurisdiction that is held in high regard internationally.
I hope that on the 24th April the people of Jersey see real sense and vote for fairness and democracy. Option A is the only option that achieves that.
4 Le Jardin a Pommier