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‘Not in voters’ interests’ to stop Reform candidate from standing

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IT would not have been in voters’ interests to take the ‘serious’ step of declaring a Reform Jersey candidate’s nomination in the St Lawrence Deputy election invalid, according to the Royal Court.

The St Lawrence Deputy hustings at the parish hall

But election nomination forms should be changed to prevent further confusion when they are filled in, the court found.

The comments were made in a judgment in the case of Sarah Westwater, who was reported to the Attorney General over concerns that the party declaration section of her nomination form had been signed after the majority of seconders had already endorsed her.

Last month the court ruled she could continue in the election – which otherwise would have led to the unopposed election of her two rivals – as the error had been unintentional and not serious.

In a judgment published this week, Commissioner Julian Clyde-Smith says that reducing the choice before the electorate is not in the public interest and can only be justified by ‘substantive breaches’ of the law. As the court found that Ms Westwater’s form had only been completed in the incorrect order and that it had made clear at all times that she was standing as a Reform candidate, it was not considered a serious breach.

In the end, technology and business writer Kirsten Morel (43) topped the poll with 1,499 votes with parish Centenier Gregory Guida (55) in second with 1,194. Ms Westwater (42) came third with 299 votes and was therefore not elected.

At a hearing last month, at which the court ruled she could continue to stand, three of the seconders said they were unsure or unaware that Ms Westwater was a Reform Jersey party candidate and might not have signed her form had they known. However, the court found that although the form had been completed in the wrong order, it made it clear at all times that she was a Reform candidate.

The judgment adds: ‘Reducing the choice before the electorate was not in their interests and was a serious step to take; that could only be justified by substantive breaches of the 2002 law.’

The judgment goes on to say that there was no suggestion that Ms Westwater had attempted to mislead and that she had at all times acted in good faith.

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It also says: ‘We recommend that the nomination form be amended to make it clear that the two officeholders of the political party also have to sign the Political Party Declaration before the document is subscribed by the proposer and seconders and that the signatures of the proposer and seconders be dated.’

Jurats Anthony Olsen and Charles Blampied were sitting.

In a separate judgment the court set out its reasons for not calling a second nomination meeting in the St Brelade Constable election, following an irregularity.

Marilyn Carré, who was standing against Mike Jackson for the role, pulled out of the race after concerns were raised over whether her proposer and nine seconders were aware that she was running as a member of the Reform Jersey party.

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The Royal Court decided that Mr Jackson’s candidacy should be allowed to stand and he was elected unopposed.

Reopening nominations, the court said, would have presented timing problems, disenfranchised postal voters and potentially meant the candidates missing printing deadlines for copy for the public manifesto booklet.

There would also have been nothing to stop Ms Carré from putting herself forward again.

Lucy Stephenson

By Lucy Stephenson
author

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