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Statement by the President, States' Assembly & Constitution Committee - Referendum and the General Election 2020

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Wednesday 24 October 2018

I am grateful, Sir, for this opportunity to talk briefly about the referendum and preparations for the forthcoming General Election.

Wednesday 10th October saw a bit of local history being made as Guernsey successfully held its first ever referendum on how to elect People's Deputies to the States. The number of votes cast in the referendum was 14,379 which represented a turnout of 45.1% of those persons inscribed on the Electoral Roll who were eligible to vote on the day of the referendum.

In November 2017, this Assembly agreed to introduce the electoral system which was the most favoured in the referendum provided that the number of persons voting exceeded 40% of those persons on the Electoral Roll who were eligible to vote.

As everyone is aware, the threshold was met and after four rounds of counting, Option A secured the greatest number of votes in that round, with 52% of the vote and will be introduced for the 2020 General Election.

I will turn to the Committee's next steps in implementing that result in a moment, but it is only right that I publicly acknowledge and thank the many people who made this Island's first referendum a success.

I would like to thank my Committee and the staff that supported it for delivering the referendum successfully. Holding a multi-option referendum using a system of preferential and transferable voting was unprecedented in Guernsey and the Committee can be proud of what it achieved in delivering it. I would also like to particularly thank the staff of the Committee forHome Affairs for the work they did overseeing the update of the Electoral Roll and the postal voting process; and the central Communications Team for the support they gave in providing all the artwork for the referendum.

The biggest thanks must go to the douzaines, staff and volunteers for assuming responsibility for the polling stations on 10th October, and to the Ballot and Deputy Ballot Officers for undertaking their unique roles. The States, and the people, of Guernsey are indebted to the parishes and volunteers for the support they provide - both in the referendum and in General Elections - and the Committee is hugely grateful for their help.

The vote count on Thursday 11th was ably overseen by Jurat David Robilliard, the Chief Counting Officer, who led and managed a substantial number of people in conducting the count. Jurat Robilliard's pragmatism, dedication and experience ensured that the vote count was undertaken in an efficient and timely way. Thanks also must be given to those vote counters, which included volunteers from the civil service and the parishes, who gave up their time to partake in a little bit of history.

Now the dust is settling, our focus turns to delivering a voting system which will see 38 Deputies elected in a single island-wide district on one day in June 2020. As a Committee, we are not naïve to the scale of the task ahead of us. The States of Guernsey will need to work together to find solutions to the practical difficulties it will face in order to ensure the best chance of delivering the 2020 General Election successfully.

We are currently drawing up the action plan for implementation and looking at a number of options. We will work closely with the Committee forHome Affairs to ensure a joined-up approach. As publicly stated by Deputy Inder, we are looking at whether it would be possible to implement some form of electronic voting by 2020. We have very recently been informed the introduction of a secure system of electronic voting has been identified as one of the key opportunities of transformation under the three major pillars of the Future Digital Services programme which is currently in progress. We have been assured by the political project lead, Deputy Le Tocq, that on appointment of the supplier, the team will make this a priority for the 2020 Election.

As raised by Deputy Yerby, accessibility will also be at the forefront of our minds as we look at how information can be communicated by candidates to the public in the run up to the Election. We will be looking at ideas such as pre-polling stations, at what improvements can be made to the postal voting system, what changes are required to the Reform Law and the matter of election expenses, amongst other things.

There are a number of factors we need to consider and a number of groups we need to consult with as we develop the proposals we will bring to the States in 2019. I know that Members and the public will have a number of suggestions they will wish the Committee to consider and I would be grateful if they would write to the Committee setting these out for our careful consideration.

The referendum was not delivered overnight and nor will the General Election, therefore I ask for Members and the public's patience as we work towards delivering the General Election it wants in 2020.

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