How can I prepare for voters’ questions?

Read a lot, and talk a lot. In particular, seek out existing States Members and ask them about the issues that have been debated this term, and the different angles that concern people about them. Talking is helpful because you cover a lot of territory in a short amount of time, and you get a window into aspects of the issue that aren’t necessarily going to be obvious in writing.

Even if the deadline is a long way off, you might want to start preparing answers to the various candidate questionnaires that exist. Doing this will help you to think through where you stand on a variety of issues, so you’ll be able to answer more naturally when people ask you similar questions face-to-face.

Finally, don’t worry if you don’t know the answer to everything. Be honest with voters – most people respect that. Show that you’re willing to learn. Explain how you would go about solving a problem, if you don’t know the actual solution yet. Don’t shut the conversation down – I don’t think many voters would be impressed by a candidate who says “that’s outside my comfort zone, so I’m not going to talk about it.” But feel free to acknowledge “that’s something I need to learn more about”, and even to ask “what do you think I should know or do?”

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Can I help to solve people’s problems?

If you’re talking to people about the States, a lot of people are going to tell you about public services that don’t work well for them, or about times they feel they have been treated wrongly or failed by the system. Some of these will be desperately difficult problems which are a real issue here and now – and you’ll want to try and do all you can to help fix it.

If you are a first-time candidate, I would just be a little bit cautious about what you promise. People’s lives are complicated, and you may not have the time or the ability to get fully involved in sorting out a problem while you’re on the campaign trail, however much you may want to.

If there is an obvious, immediate need for outside help, then you might want to point the person in the direction of someone who can offer it. The Citizens Advice Bureau is usually a good place to start, or another voluntary organisation more directly related to the person’s needs. It is probably wisest to pass on contact details, and leave it up to the person to choose if they want to get in touch.

If there is an injustice which needs addressing, but it isn’t urgent, you can say to the person: “I don’t think I’ll be able to address this for the next few weeks, but I’d be glad to pick it up with you after the Election, and try to get things sorted for you.” If you say this, make sure you mean it. Give the person a way of getting in touch with you that will work after the Election, whether or not you’re elected; or make yourself a diary note to get back in touch with them again after the Election. If you’re not elected, you might not be in a position to do what you hoped – if that happens, try and connect the person to someone else who might be able to help.

Ultimately, you’ll handle this in the way that feels right for you. I think it might just be useful to know that the campaign period is a conundrum – it’s the time when you’re most likely to find out about people’s problems, but least likely to be able to take any meaningful action to address them – and to have some ways of managing that, so you don’t leave people in the lurch, but you also aren’t making promises you can’t fulfil.  

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Will there be hustings?

In previous Elections, hustings have been organised by each Parish. Obviously, that doesn’t work so well under Island-Wide Voting. The traditional hustings format, with all the candidates sat on one stage, doesn’t really work with over a hundred candidates.

But it’s clear there will be alternatives. There are a number of “themed” hustings, which are open to all candidates. These take a kind of ‘speed dating’ format, so you’ll meet a lot of voters face-to-face, but have a fairly short contact time with each one. The best way of getting a sense of how this kind of hustings works is to take a look at the GDA’s video from the last election, here.

In addition, parties are organising hustings for their members, and so are groups of independent candidates. It sounds like these are going to take more of a traditional format, with questions from an audience to a panel of candidates.

If you aren’t involved in any of these hustings yet, there is nothing to stop you from ringing round other candidates and getting one organised – the logistics are time-consuming, so you might want to rope in a few friends – but you’ll need to do it quickly, because diaries are filling up fast.

I have put together a What’s On page, which includes links to the hustings (that I know of) that are open to all candidates.

You’ll see that I’ve also added links to a number of sites offering candidate questionnaires. For voters, these are helpful tools which offer a way of sorting through over a hundred candidates, in the absence of traditional hustings. For candidates, they’re a bit more like hard work! Face-to-face hustings gave me stage fright, but they were over and done in an hour or two. Preparing (good) written answers to questions can be a lot more time-consuming, and it is worth setting aside time in your daily routine to do so.

Some people say that hustings are important because they are “like the States”, and they’re a test of candidates’ ability to think on their feet, and engage with lots of different topics. I agree that hustings are important, but they’re nothing like the States. I value hustings because you see little snippets of a person’s character – I remember one supremely condescending candidate at the first hustings I went to, and someone else who was more generous and kind. Seeing people face-to-face, and in the context of their fellow candidates, tells you something about their nature as well as their policies, and that’s what I will be looking out for in this year’s hustings, too.

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How do I know who is on the Electoral Roll?

Only people who have signed up to the Electoral Roll will be allowed to vote in this Election.

(Voters – even if you have voted in past Elections, you need to sign up again this time! You have until Friday 21 August to do so. You can do so online via the Elections website.)

You only have a limited amount of time to get your message across to people in the month between nominations opening and Election Day, so you will probably want to concentrate your efforts on people who are actually able to vote.

This matters less if the majority of your campaigning happens online. If you’re putting information out in a public forum, it’ll be accessed by people who aren’t voters and people who are, and that’s fine – it doesn’t cost you anything extra in terms of time or effort.

If you are answering emails, I would just take people at face value and assume they are potential voters. You’ll waste more time in a back-and-forth email exchange – “can you tell me if you’re on the Electoral Roll before I answer your questions?” – than if you just get on with it and answer them.

(If it turns out they’re not on the role, just chalk it up as useful practice! Other voters will have the same kind of questions, and you’ll have spent a bit of time knocking your thoughts into shape in order to reply to this person.)

Knowing whether or not someone is on the Electoral Roll matters most if you’re planning on going door-to-door. Canvassing this way can be very time-consuming, so it matters that you focus the limited time you have on households that are actually signed up to vote.

You can do this by requesting a copy of the Electoral Roll when you submit your nomination. There’s more information in the official candidates’ guide. If you do this, you will essentially be receiving a set of 30,000 people’s contact details, and you will be responsible for keeping that safe in accordance with Data Protection requirements. (You mustn’t pass it on to anyone else, you mustn’t use it for anything other than canvassing, and you’re not entitled to keep it after the Election.)

If you are planning to canvass a particular street, you can use the Electoral Roll to check which of the houses on that street are home to a potential voter (or voters). You can then focus your time on knocking on those doors, rather than stopping at every door and just hoping for the best!

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Will I have the chance to meet voters face to face?

Yes! And I think it’s worth taking every chance you get to do so. This will be much more of an online Election than any of our past Elections, but there is a human connection that comes with meeting people face-to-face, which can build trust far more quickly than any amount of online campaigning.

According to the official candidates’ guide, there will be a Meet the Candidates event at Beau Sejour on Sunday 20 September at Beau Sejour. Get that date in your diary now, and watch the Elections website for more information.

You might be invited to various hustings events. These will probably take a very different format to previous hustings – it isn’t going to be possible to have a hundred candidates sitting at a table, taking turns to be quizzed by voters. But it will still provide an opportunity for you to engage with voters on a subject of interest.

I think the only hustings being advertised so far is the GDA’s Disability Hustings, which will take place on the evening of 16 September. Look out in the media (traditional and social) for other hustings being announced over the next couple of weeks. When you have formally submitted your nomination, you will probably receive formal invitations to all sorts of things, but if you can spot them coming up sooner, you can plan that time into your diary.

There has been a general assumption that parties might also organise their own events for voters and candidates to meet, which you’ll probably take part in if you belong to a party.

Even if you are standing as an independent, there is no reason why you shouldn’t consider organising events of your own (if you have the time and budget to do so), or grouping together with a few other candidates to do so.

(If you can’t fit in a face-to-face event of your own, but you want to do something, what about doing some kind of Q&A session for voters via livestream, and recording it so other people can access it later?)

Finally, there is always the option of going door-to-door. I don’t think that can be the main part of your campaign this time around – there just isn’t time to reach enough voters that way – but it can be a really positive part of it, if you’re able to fit it in.

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