Next Thursday, 24 September, Falklanders will be going to the polls to vote on a referendum on a Single electoral Constituency for the whole archipelago. Currently, there are two constituencies in the Falklands, Stanley the capital, which elects five of the eight members of the Legislative Assembly, and the so-called Camp, which represents the rest of the territory and sends three representatives.
The eight member Legislative Assembly, Gilbert House, is in effect the autonomous government of the Islands, addressing all issues but defense and foreign affairs managed by London, although with increasing active consultation and participation of the local government.
Originally the Legislative (Council) has eight members, four and four, but since 1997, following on another referendum it was split to five and three. This was partly because the farming community, the Camp, lost population as other industries as important as agriculture flourished in the booming economy of the Falklands.
This means that on May first, 2020 there were 273 electors in Camp and 1,303 in Stanley, in other words with two constituencies, there is one member of the Legislative Assembly for every 91 electors in Camp and one MLA for every 260 in Stanley.
The Single Constituency Bill would amend the Falklands' Constitution to replace two constituencies with one and voters would elect all eight Members of the Assembly.
However it would only pass if two thirds or more of those voting in Camp and two thirds or more voting in Stanley support it. If more than a third of those voting in Camp or more than a third of those voting in Stanley oppose the Bill it cannot be passed.
The referendum is not binding.
The idea of a single constituency has been floating for some time and in 2017, prior to that year's General Election it was anticipated that a referendum on the issue would be addressed at the beginning of the four year mandate. For different reasons and lately because of the pandemic, it was delayed to this month.
In the meantime there has been ample discussion in the local media, radio station and Penguin News weekly, with passionate arguments on both sides, but some also pointing out to the frustrating experience of the Brexit referendum in the UK, and its direct consequences for the Falklands, thus many opinions feel more debate and options are needed before going ahead.
A previous referendum was held in the Falklands in 2013, when the electorate overwhelmingly turned out and voted to remain as a British Overseas Territory. The free and democratic act was amply debated, so was the question to the electorate, and the historic event counted with the supervision of international observers.
On Thursday, as usual there will be polling places in Stanley and Camp, as well as mobile polling places according to the following agenda.
Polling Places Stanley and Camp Constituencies
Town Hall, Stanley – Thursday 24 September from 10am to 6pm
Social Club, Fox Bay, West Falkland – Thursday 24 September from 10am to 4pm
Social Club, Goose Green, East Falkland – Thursday 24 September from 10am to 4pm
Mobile Polling Places Stanley Constituency
Mobile Team – Stanley – 24 September 2020 – starting at 10am
HM Prison, King Edward VII Memorial Hospital (including visit to Liberty Lodge), Jack Hayward Housing, St Mary’s Walk sheltered accommodation and Yates Place sheltered housing.
Mobile Polling Places Camp Constituency
Mobile Team – West Falkland – 23 September 2020 – starting at 8am from Port Howard
Port Howard (1 hour 30 minutes at Lodge), Bold Cove/Manybranch, Harps, Hill Cove (1 hour 30 minutes at Social Club), Chartres (Settlement Gate)
Mobile Team 1 – East Falkland – 23 September 2020 – starting at 8am from Stanley
Long Island Turn-off, Brookfield Turn-off, Horseshoe Bay (Settlement Gate), Rincon Grande (Settlement Gate), Port Louis (Settlement Gate) and return to Stanley
Mobile Team 2 – East Falkland – 23 September 2020 – starting at 8am from Stanley
Estancia (Settlement Gate), Riverview (Settlement Gate), Evelyn Station and Teal Inlet (Cattle Grid at Settlement), Hope Cottage (Settlement Gate), Elephant Beach (Settlement Gate), Moss Side Turn-off, Port San Carlos (Race Point and Smylies) (Cattle Grid at the Garage), San Carlos (Blue Beach, Kingsford Valley, Wreck Point, Head of the Bay, Port Sussex) (outside Blue Beach Lodge) and return to Stanley
Mobile Team 3 – East Falkland – 23 September 2020 – starting at 8am from Stanley
Bluff Cove Turn-off, Fitzroy Turn-off, Fitzroy (Settlement Gate), Mare Harbour Road/Darwin Road Junction, Swan Inlet (Settlement Gate), North Arm Shearing Shed and return to Stanley
Results can be expected early evening Thursday