At 6pm on Tuesday 10th September at the Town Hall, Dr Alan Renwick is giving a presentation and taking questions on alternative voting systems for Jersey. I'll be at the meeting and highly recommend anyone with an interest in improving democracy in Jersey joins me.
This meeting has been arranged by the Privileges and Procedures Committee to lead up to the States debate in the coming weeks on Deputy Montfort Tadier's proposition for elections in Jersey to adopt a more democratic voting system.
Dr. Renwick is a reader in Comparative Politics and Director of Postgraduate Research Studies in Politics and International Relations at the University of Reading. He focuses on electoral reform in the UK and other jurisdictions and is pretty much the go-to man what it comes to this subject.
He was the Electoral Commission's expert adviser and wrote several reports that
He was also the man who demonstrated why Option B was not compliant with the Venice Commission, something which was later tried to be written out of history by many Option B campaigners.
Deputy Tadier's proposition can be read here - http://www.statesassembly.gov.je/AssemblyPropositions/2013/P.086-2013.pdf
It's a compelling read, with compelling advice from Dr Renwick.
He makes no two bones about it, there is only one acceptable voting system for Jersey and that is unequivocally proportional representation.
In multi-member districts that means STV (where you rank your candidates in order of preference) and in single seat constituencies AV (where you vote your first and second preference).
He says, rather unambiguously -
"There can be no justification for maintaining multi-member plurality in Jersey in preference to STV. It is rarely possible for an electoral system expert to give such a definite judgement: in most cases, one electoral system performs better on some criteria, while another performs better on other criteria; the final decision then depends on which of these criteria one values more. In Jersey’s case, however, all the plausible criteria point the same way: STV performs better on all criteria."
One thing is for sure, First Past the Post is a totally inadequate voting system. It is what allows some unpopular members to be elected on tiny proportions of the vote, whilst the vote is split between two similar candidates. STV will bring an end to that and allow only candidates that can secure a majority of support in their constituencies to get elected.
Most arguments against STV are quite flimsy. They say it is too complicated. Well, if you can count to 10, I can assure you that it is not complicated at all. Okay, it's not as simple as just marking down an X on your ballot, but really? Is ranking them in number complicated? Of course it isn't.
We also have the Comité des Connétables who have lodged their comments (which can be read here) which state that under STV, it would take the Parishes longer to count the votes and verify the actual results. Meaning we would not get the results on the night of the election. This won't be the case in all constituencies, but certainly in the Senatorial election (provided we still have Senators by then!). But if taking a few extra hours to count the votes means we get a more representative States, that is a tiny price to pay.
I voted in the referendum in the UK in 2011 for AV and was quite sad that it lost, but I'm optimistic that Jersey can overcome this given how many high profile current and former politicians back it (Senator Bailhache and former Senator Horsfall) and that it was actually a recommendation of the Electoral Commission in their final report.
In fact Pierre Horsfall wrote an excellent letter to the JEP advocating STV which you can read on page 6 here.
So Dr Renwick is well worth listening to and I highly recommend coming to hear what he has to say!