"Voting for your future by choosing the best people" (Jersey Evening Post) - 25 November 2020

The third article in a five-part series ahead of the Jersey elections in 2022, by Lisa Springate, Chair of the Jersey Branch of the Institute of Directors.

Our States members have recently decided to agree the site for the new hospital. While we all have our own views on the process and the time it’s taken to reach that decision, at least it has been made. It’s a pretty critical one for our Island, and so too are the other propositions that they’ve been voting on; such as emergency government powers to deal with the pandemic including a fiscal stimulus programme. So what’s my point? Our elected representatives are making huge decisions that affect every single one of us. If we aren’t’ voting in the right people for the job then we can’t complain about what those decisions are. It’s essential that we all exercise our democratic right.

This is as important for businesses as it is for individuals. Globally, you only need to see the reaction on the financial markets to the US elections to see how important political stability is. Here our States members will decide on taxes, minimum wage, regulatory issues, licencing and population policy and employment rights – to name but a few. Government is also responsible for education and skills, critical to our future workforce.

That’s not to say that we don’t have an opportunity to impact decision making in between elections, we do. The upcoming public meetings to discuss the Government Plan 2021-2024, are being held ahead of the States vote and are your opportunity to have a say (they are being held virtually due to Covid restrictions). The Government holds many public consultation meetings like this and it is surprising how few people turn up and it is generally always the same faces. (Call 440800 for further information on the Government Plan sessions and how you can participate).

Who can Vote?

The criteria for voting are straightforward. We have a lower age for electoral registration than the UK, so if you are over 16, have lived in Jersey for either the last 2 years or the last 6 months plus a period totalling 5 years – then you’re able to have your say. If you’re not sure if you’re on the register, then contact your Parish hall and they will tell you.

It’s important to exercise your right to vote, not just because of the reasons above, but also because for younger people and women that right has been hard fought. 16 year olds have only been able to vote since 2008. We may have agreed to allow women to vote in 1919 – but only if they were over 30! They didn’t get equal voting rights as men until 1945.

This inequality unfortunately remains in the representation of the States Assembly itself.

The lack of diversity in our Assembly doesn’t just stop at gender either but there is also very little representation from our minority communities. Within IoD Jersey, diversity and inclusion (which we regard as encompassing age, ethnicity, gender and disability) is something which is at the core of our values and which we actively promote through one of our ten sub-committees.

In the new year, IoD Jersey is launching a campaign to encourage more suitable candidates to stand for election. What is important is the experience and skillset of our States members, not their gender or ethnicity. We need to see more people coming forward to lead their Island and we should all be supporting them to do so. If a business succeeds on great leadership then so too does an Island.

Isn’t voting complicated?

No, it’s straightforward.

Making your decision

Prior to the election, candidates will issue their manifestos. Because most of the candidates are independents, ie they are not aligned to a party, each one will be different. Jersey has just one official political party at present, Reform Jersey.

Just because a candidate puts something into a manifesto, doesn’t mean they will definitely follow through. One way to assess commitment to issues you are passionate about is to go to the hustings. Hustings are usually now recorded by video, so if you are unable to attend in person it is well worth watching online. Candidates need to stand up in the States Assembly and articulate their views on essential subjects. While they might look good on paper, it’s essential they are also able to talk knowledgeably and aren’t just declaring views they think the electorate want to hear in order to get voted in.

We have been attending hustings for centuries – they’re nothing new – you can trace the word back to Old English and Old Norse. You will have these elected members for the next four years, so it’s well worth taking an hour or two watching hustings before you make your choice.

Casting your vote

Voting is straightforward and if you can’t vote on the day at the polling station, you can vote in advance at one of the pre-polling stations. You can also apply for a postal vote if you are going to be out of the Island. You will need to do this in advance though. If you have a valid reason as to why it is going to be too difficult for you to get to a polling station, or you might struggle to be able to fill in the voting form, you can apply to have a pre-poll home visit when someone will come and help you. There should be no reason why you cannot vote. The States also intends to make electronic voting possible, but it needs extensive research to prevent fraud and other concerns, so at present it is not available.

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