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This latter point, concerning hard labour, was revoked in a 1979 amendment to the Criminal Justice Law.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Naturally, the Reform Law has been amended many times since it was originally enacted and some of its provisions have been affected by other laws that overlap.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.


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Other events that occured in August

The Saumarez Memorial foundation stone was laid 1st
Guernsey won double-silver at the Commonwealth Games 2nd
Earl Grey was appointed Governor of Guernsey 3rd
A boy scout fell 250ft over a Torteval Cliff 4th
Jethou tenant was rescued from an up-turned boat 5th
A tomato ship and a tanker collided 6th
Human remains were found on Lihou 7th
The Beatles played at Candie Gardens 8th
The RAF bombed Guernsey Airport 9th
Guernesiais linguist Marie de Garis died 10th
Alderney experienced a total eclipse of the sun 11th
A minister was found dead at Icart Point 12th
Guernsey steam tramway is granted its concession 13th
Police found a bomb in Bluebell Wood 14th
Hanois Lighthouse’s foundation stone was laid 15th
Charlie Chaplin played in St Peter Port 16th
St Peter Port inundated with fish 17th
A royal visit… of sorts
The Rolling Stones played St Peter Port 18th
Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society was published 19th
Archaeologist Crystal Bennet was born 20th
Mapmaking geologist John MacCulloch died 21st
St Sampson pensioner was buried in a landslide 22nd
Trident VI ran aground on its return from Herm 23rd
Queen Victoria visited Guernsey 24th
The post-Occupation military government was disbanded 25th
Wesleyans celebrated 100 years on Guernsey 26th
Oliver Reed was jailed in Guernsey 27th
Guernsey’s Reform Law was enacted 28th
Winston Churchill visited Guernsey with his wife 29th
Philip de Saumarez was discharged as a Jurat 30th
Jersey swimmers set a round-Guernsey record 31st