28th August 1948
Guernsey’s Reform Law was enacted
The States of Guernsey runs in accordance with a series of rules laid out in the Reform (Guernsey) Law 1948. When enacted on 18 August, it formalised, codified and updated many procedures that had been common practice since Norman times.
Its scope was comprehensive, covering everything from the duties of the Gerffier to how a recount should be handled in the election of People’s Deputies and what to do about people phycially incapable of recording a vote.
It tidied up a few loose ends, too, abolishing Cantonal Douzaines and “any rule of law which provides that a person is subject to a legal incapacity to vote by reason of his of her mental state”.
The States of Deliberation
The Reform Law established that the States of Deliberation should comprise the Bailiff, Her Majesty’s Procrurer and Comptroller, 38 Deputies from Guernsey (which includes Herm and Jethou) and two Representatives from Alderney.
The Law set the number of Deputies for each parish, with St Peter Port having the most, at 13, Vale the second most at five, and St Sampson, four. Castel and St Martin each had three, with the remaining parishes having just one Deputy each. This was amended with effect from the 2004 General Election, which organised Guernsey into seven electoral districts. St Peter Port North, Vale and Castel each elected seven Deputies, while St Peter Port South, St Sampson, West and South-East each elected six.
The original Reform Law allowed for elections to be held in secret, naturally, and required everyone appointed to be in attendance at a polling station or the count to help maintain that secrecy. If they didn’t they would be “liable on conviction to imprisonment with or without hard labour for a term not exceeding six months”.
This latter point, concerning hard labour, was revoked in a 1979 amendment to the Criminal Justice Law.
In case of a dispute
Candidates could only demand a recount if the number of votes they received came within 2% of their rival. Any demand would have to be made within 24 hours if it was to be actioned. The exception was where two candidates received an idential number of votes and the addition of a single vote to one or other would have seen them elected. In that case, a second ballot would be held automatically, with only those two candidates included.
Naturally, the Reform Law has been amended many times since it was originally enacted and some of its provisions have been affected by other laws that overlap. However, it continues to form the basis of Guernsey’s legal and political structure several decades after it was first debated.