Do we need politicians?
By Ryan Morrison
We’ve come up with a couple of radical ideas to reform the States – why not share yours with us?
Average turnouts at the last batch of elections in the island were pretty low, with less than 50% of the electorate actually turning out.
In fact the turnout in the most recent Constable Election in St Helier, an election for a man responsible for a massive budget and a third of the islands population – saw a turnout of just 19%.
So, it could be argued that when the politicians propose a new law and get it passed and have it introduced that they don't really have enough of a mandate from the people of Jersey for it to be relevant or for it to count.
This is especially the case when the law, tax or major change being introduced is a controversial one – such as electoral reform, the Waterfront or GST.
Let’s take Electoral Reform for a start. The people being asked to vote on changing the way people are elected to the States of Jersey are the people that were elected under the current system - would you vote to change a system that put you where you are?
So is a new approach needed or does it not make that much of a difference?
A new approach?
A caller to the BBC Radio Jersey phone-in suggested that technology could be used to give everyone a vote on every issue.
Mark suggested that technology could be used so that "we can vote on every issue ourselves without the need for representation."
In some countries if enough signatures can be gathered in a petition (certain USA States/Switzerland for example) then a referendum on that issue is automatically triggered. Would that idea work in Jersey?
If enough of a percentage of the electorate sign a petition against a new law or call for a change (such as electoral reform), then a referendum could automatically be triggered and if a reasonable majority vote in favour of the change or against the law then the result could be binding.
Of course this would require checks and balances. For example you might want a rule that says that the referendum is only valid if there is at least a 65% turnout and then the significant majority needs to be at least 70%.
It's not like Jersey isn't used to this kind of direct democracy - the electorate set their own parish rates and have the ability to demand it be a LOT lower than the Parish Constable says he needs (see St Helier a few years ago).
Or what about something even more direct? Do we really need politicians in the 21st Century? What about having a web site where anyone can post a proposal, everyone registered to vote in the island can then cast a vote or have their say on that proposal.
For example - lets say Mr le Sueur, a registered voter who's been through all the checks and balances to make sure he is who he says he is, submits a proposal for a 3% Goods and Services tax on all products sold in Jersey.
Every other registered voter then has the right to 1) post a comment or propose an alteration on that original proposal and 2) vote on the proposal.
If after a set deadline has been reached there is more than 70% in favour of the proposal - it gets carried and is made law by the Civil Service.
Over to you
What do you think? Is it time for this kind of radical reform? Share your ideas for changing the way the island works.
last updated: 14/01/2008 at 13:34
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