Report slams errors in police and crime commissioner elections
Elections of the first police and crime commissioners were rushed and so badly publicised that only one in five voters were able to make an informed decision.
That is the damning verdict of an Electoral Commission report into November’s controversial police and crime commissioners poll, which saw the creation of a new post of running police forces being voted for by the public.
The elections were notable for low turnouts and a higher-than-normal number of spoilt ballot papers.
In Wiltshire, the total number of spoilt papers was such a high percentage of the overall votes cast that handling them cost the taxpayer £30,000, while in Avon and Somerset, the higher turnout in Bristol for the elections for a mayor, helped independent candidate Sue Mountstevens win.
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Turnout in some towns was as low as 4 per cent, and the Electoral Commission said the participation, at 15 per cent nationally, was the lowest recorded in a peacetime non-local government election in Britain.
More than a third of those who did not vote blamed a lack of awareness of who was standing, while nearly half of people did not know “very much” about the elections.
In a report published this morning, Electoral Commission chairman Jenny Watson said: “There were many different reasons why people didn’t vote last November and like any election there’s a limit to how much these can be addressed by decisions Government can make. But one of them was not knowing about the candidates and something can be done about that.
“It’s not enough to think that simply holding an election will inspire participation. That’s why at the 2016 PCC elections a candidate information booklet must be sent to every household,” she added.
Thereport found that more than a quarter, 28 per cent, of people said they knew “nothing at all” about the PCC elections, while 55 per cent found it difficult to access information about the candidates.
The commission found that key pieces of legislation necessary for the election to happen were finalised too close to polling day.
And for any new elections which are proposed in future, the relevant Government should make clear at the time of introducing legislation how they will ensure that electors have appropriate access to information about candidates.
Candidates themselves, particularly independent ones on lower incomes, complained that they were at a disadvantage.
Ms Watson added: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. It’s vital that the rules surrounding them are clear, workable and in place in good time.
“The rules for these elections were confirmed unacceptably late causing confusion for candidates and electoral administrators. The Home Office doesn’t have experience in preparing for elections and they need to be better supported,” she added.
Meanwhile, the report found that 44 per cent of all candidates found it difficult to get the 100 signatures required for their nomination to stand – compared to 10 needed for a parliamentary election.
And 39 per cent also said it was difficult to raise the £5,000 deposit, compared to £500 deposit for parliamentary elections.