The States of Alderney has come under fire for apparently flouting the Lieutenant Governor’s request to clarify election eligibility.
Alderney law does not define what is meant by ‘ordinarily resident’ on the Island – a requirement covering the last three years for any candidate who stands for the States.
Recently Debbie Lewis was ejected as nominee for the by-election because according to acting chief executive Adrian Lewis and deputy CEO Liz Maurice, her ‘ordinary residence’ was not Alderney.
Her nomination had been formally accepted by the acting Chief Executive Officer, who added her to the electoral list. However after a tip off by second home owner Michael James they investigated her residence on Alderney and struck her from the list.
The November Billet item alters existing legislation purely to make it the nominee and their proposer’s responsibilty to declare that they meet eligibility requirements, rather than being the remit of the chief executive.
The new ordinance, which will be active from 11th November, fails to address what ordinary residence means, despite the Lt Governor asking the lack of clarity around eligibility to participate in Alderney’s electoral processes.
Ms Lewis said:
‘The item on this Billet does not help in this regard at all. All this proposed change seems to do is give the Returning Officer/Chief Executive more power to unilaterally decide who is or who isn’t an Ordinary Resident in what will continue to be a scandalously opaque manner.’
Ms Lewis had argued passionately that even though over the past three years she had spent slightly more time in the UK than Alderney because of family and work commitments over the past three years, her partner, home, pets, GP and possessions were all in Alderney.
She quoted the only UK legal guidance available which concluded that ‘ordinarily resident’ was not irretrievably tied to time spent in one place – to no avail.
She shared the judgement with the Lieutenant Governor. He wrote back saying he very much ‘regretted’ how the unfortunate matter had unfolded and that it left ‘questions’ about future elections.
Marco Ciotti, Chief of Staff to the Lieutenant-Governor, said His Excellency ‘very much regretted’ the manner in which the issue had unfolded.
He said the Lieutenant Governor had asked the Law Officers, as a priority, to advise the authorities on eligibility to participate in Alderney’s electoral processes and that the advice was promulgated early to prevent a recurrence of this ‘unfortunate matter’ at the next election.
‘I am, however, also directed to say that His Excellency accepts that this decision (and the manner in which it came about), in conjunction with the acknowledged lack of clarity in Alderney’s current laws on the matter, may leave open a number of questions about the conduct of future elections.’
In his policy letter Mr Dent writes that the proposed change served to ‘highlight to the candidate and those who are proposing them of the need for certain criteria to be met’. Hopefully, he writes, it will avoid ‘placing the Clerk in a potentially difficult position.’
He adds: ‘Separately the Law Officers have offered some suggestions on the guidance the Clerk, as the statutory official, could issue in respect of the term Ordinary Residence.’
Mrs Lewis said the proposal made a bad situation worse.
‘The current law creates the term Ordinary Resident but it still doesn’t define it! Whatever the Returning Officer decides to be the qualifying or non-qualifying factors determining an individual’s eligibility to stand (or to be on the electoral roll for that matter) remains entirely at his or her non-defined discretion.
‘Instead of addressing the difficulties highlighted by my nomination as a candidate at the last by-election, as requested by the Lt Governor, the States are proposing to make matters a whole lot worse – and far less transparent or democratic. The States need to think very carefully about what it does next if it wishes to retain credibility and trust in the electoral process.’
Former States Member Robert McDowall said:
‘They are creating new law, but one shrouded in secrecy. What is in this new‘Guidance’? How have they defined Ordinary Resident’? Theoretically,the civil servants cannot do this. Law can only be made by the States, and only then after public consultation. No wonder there is a mix of cynicism and apathy towards the States and elections.’
AY News contacted Mr Dent and States acting CEO Adrian Lewis for comments.