Call for referendum on States reform to be simplified

A REFERENDUM on States reform should be simplified and consist of just one question with yes or no answers, according to a States Deputy.

The role of the Constables in the States could be removed
The role of the Constables in the States could be removed

A REFERENDUM on States reform should be simplified and consist of just one question with yes or no answers, according to a States Deputy.

Deputy Geoff Southern has lodged an amendment to plans for the public vote in April because he believes the current proposals are too complicated and are biased to maintaining the Constables in the States.

Currently it has been proposed that Islanders would be given three options for States reform and two votes, which would be used to rank their choices in order of preference. A transferable voting system would then be used to get a result.

However, Deputy Southern has proposed replacing those options with a single question: ‘Should the States Assembly be reformed so that it is comprised of 42 States Members known as Deputies, elected from six large districts with each district choosing seven Deputies?’ Islanders would then vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’.

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Comments for: "Call for referendum on States reform to be simplified"

St Saviour resident

For once agree with this deputy


I have read Deputy Southern's proposition, he has hit the nail on the head. The referendum as currently written is totally skewed in favour of the constable being retained.

If you want them to remain you can use your two votes for options B & C which both keep them in.

If you think the constables should be removed from the States you can only use one of your votes for option A.

Well done Deputy Southern for trying to sort this mess out.


Yes, but what about those who think that we should be much more biased towards senators, in order to reduce what my late father used to call the 'parish pump politics'. The argument against senators has been largely based on the difficulty of holding parish hustings, which is hardly a 21st century problem. We want strategic people for national politics (for we are almost a nation) not deputies who get involved in parish issues (which the constables should deal with).

I think that these 3 options are perfectly reasonable ones, and the great disappointment to me is that we are not being given a 4th option of more senators and fewer deputies (although of course there are various permutations).

gino risoli

Yes, that would feel like progress.


That seems a much more sensible question than what the "independant" committee have come out with. Simple and concise, no worrying about whther you have ticked the right boxes or whether you were expected to tick two or just one.

the wanted

It won't get changed. This is not a democaracy that we live in, this is Jersey.

the thin wallet

i do wonder about the constables in the states .

i do believe that they alone have the power to dissolve the goverment , if need be.

if this is true .

who will have the power to do this?

or would they retain that power?

i could be wrong. so can anyone throw a bit of light on my question?


That's not correct - the Constables have no such power.

the thin wallet

thankyou for the reply .

do you know who has ?

the queen?


Nice bit of protectionsim there Geoff, taking out your worst fears, a reduction in the number of Deputies to 30.

And if I want to reduce the number of Members to 42 but retain the Constables - nope, you don't want me to be able to vote for that, do you?

Three questions, hardly complictaed. If you want, you could have a fourth option, 49 (or 53) Members but lose the Constables. then there would be two options with Constables, two without. Two options at 49, two at 42. And if a voter can't understand the choices, well.....


Agreed that the question wasn't complicated (in my opinion at least), but that is not the main purpose of the amendment.

The point was that Option B is incompatible with the Electoral Commissions own principles (each States Member representing the same number of voters etc), and is possibly not compatible with international human rights law which says that fair elections means having equally sized constituencies. The Parishes are not equal. Were Option B implemented, it would open Jersey up to human rights legal challenges, which would ultimately cost a lot of money and waste a lot of time.

If you would like to reduce the size of the chamber but maintain the Constables, you are by extension, disenfranchising those in the more urban areas that will suffer the most from the malapportionment.

It would be like saying you want to take the vote away from left-handed people. No. Democracy means everyone must have an equal vote, and it is not right for one section of people to tell another that they must have a smaller say in way the island is governed.

Those two reasons combined mean that it is sensible to remove Option B from the referendum.


Sam the Dictator?

This story isn't whether you or I agree with Option B or not - that is for us, the electorate to decide. If it's as bad an Option as you suggest, trust the electorate to throw it out, don't act like a dictator.

It isn't about "international human rights law" either - you've just made that up because it sounds good. Absolute tosh.

These two reasons combined mean that it is sensible to disregard your post on this occasion.


I made no such things up and think you should do some research before using unfounded insults like "dictator".

Article 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights provides for "equal suffrage" as a key component of a democratic system.

Protocol 1, Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights provides for the "fair" elections.

And the Venice Commission (which is a body of the European Council) provides the definition of "equal suffrage" and sets out limits for how much constituencies are allowed to deviate from the average population.

I've collated the relevant statistics and referenced the specific points in my latest blog post -


If you take away the expression of choice of the electorate because you might not like their opinion, you are a dictator in the making (even if not fully fledged). Descriptive, not insulting.

You're knitting together various wee bits of the European Convention and Venice Commission in your support of what "international law" demands of Jersey, implying therefore that Jersey is open to legal challenge. I think you know why we haven't been taken to court even under the existing system! Absolutely no relevance to this referendum.

Art Lelai

James are you the official apologist for government?

The UK government has clearly stated with regard to the referendum on Scottish independence that the question should be a simple YES or NO question.

There are reasons for this, good reasons.

The whole idea of transferable votes is a stupid one, (maybe it is yours if you are the right James?)

We want a clear test of public opinion.

By all means ask more than one YES or NO question, but we need to get a clear measure of public opinion.


There was nothing in what I said about taking away choice from the electorate because I may not like their opinion.

The point was that a choice that takes away choice from others is an illegitimate choice.

Will you address that point instead of being insulting? Please explain how it is legitimate and democratic for one group of people to vote to take away the voting power of another group of people.

Option B disenfranchises voters in the urban areas by adding more people per representative than the country areas. Explain what right the country dwellers have to possess more voting power than those in urban areas?

For the past 15 odd years reform has been on the horizon. Any legal challenge would have likely just said "go back to Jersey and take part in the campaigns first". When the referendum is over, that will no longer be the case and a legal challenge would be listened to.


Southern trying to hold on to his job methinks. Time you went you waste of space


Think you'll find that actually he's campaigning for a system that will abolish his safe seat...

Rob Edwards

Sorry Geoff..there are mulitiple issues involved here.

Do you really believe that this is too complicated for the electorate ?

I really hope not.

Being this simply a Deputy on the self preservation bandwagon ?

The Deputies have already "put a knife" through our democracy by coniving to reduce the number of those elected on an Islandwide vote rather than by individual parish.

Ah well ...Plus ca change !


Rob- Yes, ideally there would be around 45 Senators and no Constables or Deputies for ultimate democracy. But you the arguments why this isn't practical. 'Simplification' is the JEP headline. Essentially Southern is addressing a number of flaws in the current EC proposition. His solution happens to be simpler whilst also reducing the democratic deficit. Same Mezec has published some good research on his blog on the deviation of the different options. With referendums, it's important that the question and proceedure are simple which this EC proposition isn't.


I think this is an excellent ammendment to a poor EC proposition. I doubt it won't get through the States but at least it will create a good debate. I'd personally prefer Jersey adopts a system that is compatible with key principles of democracy and falls within the various directives and objectives from the EU and UN such as the Venice Commission. Sam Mezec has done some excellent analysis on the % deviations of the different options. Only Option A falls within international acceptable limits.

Southern's ammendment is superior to the EC proposition if enhancing democracy is the objective of the exercise.


My Oh my the establishment struggle to keep the waters muddy in order to massage the outcome they want....using complex words and phrasing that would tackle the best editor...and all to get what they truly have on their agenda..NO CHANGE....the original idea of Constables in the States had merit...but the ensuing voting en bloc almost to a man ...check on Hansard if you don't believe has made them simply a back up tool for the establishment...we want change...we want transparency..and we want it NOW