ONTD Political

Police commissioner elections on track for lowest turnout in British history.

6:23 pm - 11/16/2012
Areas reporting so far have average turnout of 15%, with one polling station seeing no voters at all.

The first ever elections for police and crime commissioners are on track for the lowest turnout for a nationwide set of elections in British history, leading to fears for the legitimacy of the new police watchdogs.

Turnout based on returns from 30 of the 41 police force areas averages just 15%, below even the most doom-laden predictions, ranging from 12% in the West Midlands to 19% in Humberside and Avon and Somerset. In Gwent, one Newport polling station had no voters at all.

Downing Street blamed the fact that the £75m elections were "a brand new idea" and a lack of coverage in the "London-based media" for the poor turnout. David Cameron insisted the new police watchdogs, who have the power to hire and fire chief constables, would have a mandate because they were "replacing organisations that weren't directly elected at all".

The Electoral Commission confirmed it would carry out an inquiry into the low turnout, saying the elections had been run in a number of ways they did not agree with.

The early results saw an existing Conservative police authority member and accountant, Angus Macpherson, declared the first police commissioner in Britain since 1835 after he was elected in Wiltshire on a 15% turnout. Just 8% of those eligible to vote backed him. Macpherson said his first priority was to implement savings in his force's budget. He will have to resign as a magistrate to take the job.

There were 2,683 spoilt ballot papers in Wiltshire, or just over 3% of the votes cast, suggesting a significant number of people wanted to show that protest rather than apathy lay behind their decision to "abstain in person".

A second Conservative commissioner, Christopher Salmon, was narrowly elected with a 1,114 majority over Labour in a straight two-party fight in Dyfed-Powys, mid-Wales. "I am listening. We have lessons to learn," said Salmon of the low turnout on his election.

The former Labour minister Jane Kennedy became the first Labour PCC when she was elected with 56% of the vote on the first count in Merseyside.

Early indications showed that the dismal turnout had opened up the opportunities for independents despite the lack of a free mailshot for candidates. A former detective, Martyn Underhill, unexpectedly topped the poll in the first round in Dorset, while Mick Thwaites, a former chief superintendent, was in a strong second place in Essex. Both went into a second round against Conservative opponents.

Fears that the far right would benefit from the low turnout however were dealt a strong blow when the English Defence League's candidate in Bedfordshire, Kevin Carroll, was eliminated after a first round in which he secured 10% of the vote.

Jenny Watson, chair of the official watchdog, the Election Commission, said the low turnout was a concern for everyone who cared about democracy and confirmed that the watchdog would conduct an inquiry, reporting early next year.

"The government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with," said Watson. "But what is important now is that the right lessons are learned: we will talk to voters, candidates and returning officers to understand what worked and what didn't. The commission is going to undertake a thorough review, and we will present our findings to parliament in early 2013."

Labour insisted that the "dismal turnout" had not only been a shambles but had damaged the legitimacy of the new job and raised serious questions about their mandate.

The former home secretary, David Blunkett, said a 15% turnout meant the commissioners lacked legitimacy: "It is going to be very difficult for a police and crime commissioner. They now will not be able to say to their chief constable: 'I have an overwhelming mandate, you'll do as I tell you.'"

The new commissioners will face a tight timetable to submit a budget for their police force, set a figure for the police share of council tax bills and draw up a four-year strategic plan to tackle crime and antisocial behaviour all by a deadline of 31 January. Twelve of the new PCCs are facing short-term decisions over whether to confirm their "temporary chief constables" in their posts while several others are facing an urgent hunt for a new recruit.

Jon Collins of the Police Foundation thinktank said the low turnout would "raise inevitable questions about the legitimacy and credibility of the incoming commissioners".

He said they must hit the ground running and demonstrate to the electorate they can make a real difference.

"All successful PCC candidates must recognise that the vast majority of people have not taken part in this election and ensure that they do everything possible once they are in office to engage the public in a meaningful debate about the policing of their local area."

The home secretary, Theresa May, is to meet all the new PCCs in London on 3 December at a "welcome event" at the Home Office.

Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2012/nov/16/police-commissioner-elections-lowest-turnout

OP: I actually voted in these. I feel like I am part of some kind of exclusive elite as a result.
ellonwye 17th-Nov-2012 02:08 am (UTC)
I didn't even know this was happening until I happened to walk past a polling station!
violetrose 17th-Nov-2012 06:01 pm (UTC)
Same. I wasn't sent any letters or ballots.

I would've voted if I'd known it was going on.
theciz 17th-Nov-2012 02:14 am (UTC)
Oh yeah, that was yesterday. I got mailed three ballots for stuff like this. Honestly I kinda forgot what they were for, because I hadn't heard a thing more about them until right now. And that's sad considering I was at a talk by the GMP Police Commissioner on Thursday lol.
layweed 17th-Nov-2012 02:45 am (UTC)
15% is like what the turnout is here in Texas for special elections or off-season elections or local elections. I don't know what you're worried abou....hmmmm. Yeah you should definitely be worried. =\
alicephilippa 17th-Nov-2012 08:55 am (UTC)
When I voted at about 9:15 I was the 10th person to vote at my polling station.

It seemed to me that in the weeks leading up to these elections that the press were continually talking them down and predicting a very low turnout. It was a situation that I think became a self-fulfilling prophesy.
deborahw37 17th-Nov-2012 09:44 am (UTC)
I wrote " I disagree on principle with politically elected commissioners" on my ballot paper.

First time I've ever spoiled a ballot but I feel strongly that these posts should not exist and that the £100,000,000 could have been used in better ways
zizzo_no_ai 17th-Nov-2012 01:48 pm (UTC)
A lot of people I know did similar. I just wish the media wasn't so intent on focusing on how the public don't care about politics and democracy is wasted on them etc. etc., instead of actually trying to work out why pretty much everyone's so disengaged and disenchanted.
the_physicist 17th-Nov-2012 02:59 pm (UTC)
i don't actually have a clue what any of this is about. i guess downing street has a point when it talks about a media black out in London on the issue, lol. or maybe i missed the police election edition of the Metro XD .
ghost_busting 17th-Nov-2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
My dad wrote "Commissioner Gordon" on his. You have no idea how proud I am XD
layweed 17th-Nov-2012 04:47 pm (UTC)
I kind of agree, since these positions should be non-political and above political bickering. But on the other hand, here in Texas they elect judges and sheriffs in races where you must declare a political party (as opposed to like some positions where you don't have to) and I kinda like it because I want to know I'm not going to vote for some fucking scumbag like Joe Arpaio who has an extreme right-wing position on law-enforcement and with regards to "illegal immigration".
the_physicist 17th-Nov-2012 02:55 pm (UTC)
there was an election for this? i'm a londoner and i had no idea.
its_anya 17th-Nov-2012 07:48 pm (UTC)
I didn't hear about this until about 3 days beforehand, and that was through a particularly politically active friend on FB. I'm not currently in the country and I had no idea if it was possible to vote from abroad; in any case it would have been too late for me to sign up.

I'm also fucking alarmed that the EDL ran a candidate.
its_anya 17th-Nov-2012 07:49 pm (UTC)
I didn't think they even did political things anyway. They're supposed to be the militant drunken bar brawl wing of the BNP, are they not?
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