Record low turnout at Police Commissioner elections

By Jamie Maguire

The first police and crime commissioners were voted for across the UK on Thursday, with record low levels of turnout at an estimated average of 15% or less.

Many people across Sussex, and the rest of the country, have expressed a great disappointment not only at having no say in whether or not we should have had these elections, but also at the general lack of information regarding the candidates.

The website http://www.aboutmyvote.co.uk said “In late October, every household in England and Wales (excluding London) will receive a booklet explaining more about these elections and how to fill in your ballot paper.”

However, this was not the case for many people who in fact only received polling cards and have not felt able to make an informed decision. One source says: “How are we expected to make an informed decision on a vote when the information about the nominees has been dreadful? I’ve not had any information through my door and if you go to the official website you get three paragraphs about each candidate. None of them offer to tackle different issues and none explain how they will achieve their objectives.”

An information gap was not the only issue with these elections. Many people, including some police officers themselves, feel that the elections were not necessary, and were a waste of time and resources. One police officer posted online: “16,000 police officers cut across UK with government ‘reforms’. Cost of farcical police commissioner elections amounts £100 million, the same it would cost to fund another 3,000 officers. Nice one.”

Various sources have spoken out about how they feel that the elections were undemocratic, and that adding more politicians is not the answer. There have also been cries out against what is seen by many as a politicising of the police force. One person has said: “people will just end up voting based on their existing political allegiances.”

Concerned that its warnings about the elections were not heeded by government, the Electoral Commission has vowed to launch a thorough review. Jenny Watson, Chair of the Electoral Commission, said yesterday: “The low turnout at the Police and Crime Commissioner elections is a concern for everyone who cares about democracy…we will talk to voters, candidates and Returning Officers to understand what worked and what didn’t.”

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