On 11 October 2020, election services provider UK Engage successfully concluded the administration of an island-wide election in Guernsey, following the introduction of a new voting system.
The Stockport-based independent scrutineer overcame strong national competition to secure the contract for the provision of printed electoral stationery and ballot paper scanning equipment for the historic election.
For the first time, the island was treated as one constituency. Voters were able to select up to 38 People’s Deputies from 119 candidates on one single ballot paper to represent them in the States of Deliberation, Guernsey’s parliament. Voting took place at parish polling stations, super polling stations and by post.
Following a referendum in 2018, the previous system, which saw voters cast their ballots on a district basis, was replaced after voters went to the polls to vote for a new electoral system for the island. They were presented with five Multiple Non-Transferable Vote electoral systems, which is a variant of the First Past the Post method. 52.48% voted in favour of island-wide voting.
For the States of Guernsey and UK Engage, the new island-wide voting system brought with it many new considerations for the 2020 election. First, the size of the ballot paper needed to accommodate candidates from across the island, the final number of candidates featured on the ballot paper was 119. Also, the method of counting votes, which was done manually at a district level, needed to be reviewed to make it faster and to eliminate human error. Finally, due to the coronavirus pandemic, registrations for postal votes soared as 1000s of voters opted to stay away from the polling stations. The final number of postal vote registrations was more than 21,000 out of fewer than 31,000 eligible voters.
As part of the contract, UK Engage provided the following services for Guernsey’s first island-wide election:
- the design and production of a 24-inch ballot paper
- the design, production and mailing of postal vote packs to islanders who registered to vote by post
- the provision of state-of-the-art ballot paper scanners
- the production of onsite tabletop voting booths
- onsite adjudication stations and a Returning Officer management console
John Foster Managing Director at UK Engage, said:
It was a great honour to be involved in this historic election. We deliver 1000s of democratic processes each year, but for the team, this was very special. We are delighted that the election went well and at the staggering voter turnout of 80%, especially due to the challenges that the coronavirus pandemic placed on the election, such as the change of the original election date and the upsurge in postal vote registrations. Furthermore, our team had to produce the 24-inch ballot paper, mail a significantly increased number of ballot packs, and oversee the count and adjudication. We are very proud of the team and our robust voting solutions in helping achieve democracy on the island.”
Services Director, Stephen Power added:
We work with local authorities across the UK to deliver statutory elections and so we have seen a lot of things over the years – we have to be prepared for every eventuality. Therefore, we were well-placed and experienced to undertake the new island-wide vote. We wish the 38 elected People’s Deputies all the best in their roles.
“A key observation for us, as an electoral print and mail provider, was the huge increase in demand for postal votes on the island, which rose to 21,000 from 2,000 in 2016. Such demand ahead of the 2021 May elections will have an impact on electoral printers and local authorities alike. We are already planning for this eventuality and its impact on our local authority customers across England and Wales.”
Following the election, the swearing in of People’s Deputies will happen on 16 October 2020.