Archive for the ‘PCC Elections-Low Turnout’ Category

Low Turnout Democracy for Police & Crime Commissioner Elections

Lundi, novembre 19th, 2012

The 15% turnout in the Police & Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections of last week, was apparently the lowest ever for the UK in any national election. It was even half the low turnout of 31% for the local elections of last May. There seems to have been a lack of effective engagement with the voters and about which the Electoral Commission (now charged with submitting a report to parliament on the low turnout) had been warning the government beforehand.
We’ll have to await this report but the general reasons why include:
• Too limited resources dedicated to explaining to voters in advance the importance for local accountability of this new role of US-style police commissioners, replacing the existing police authorities.
• Despite the seemingly all-pervading influence of the Internet in the lives of particularly younger voters, the absence of the traditional, attention-grabbing leaflet dropped through the letterbox and telling voters what the election was all about, contributed to many being unaware and indeed not bothered to vote.
• With no PCC election taking place in the capital, this role already the responsibility of Mayor Boris Johnson, the government communications machine failed to excite the London-centric press enough to adopt Police & Crime Commissioners as a popular issue for their readers.
• The main political parties themselves also seemed to take a more detached approach than normal, perhaps not wishing to be disadvantaged by the necessary non-political/non-partisan nature of the PCC role.
That said, the 41 PCCs elected last Thursday include 8 former police officers, 16 Conservatives, 13 from Labour and 12 independents. This would tend to confirm a view that the 5 million or so concerned citizens who voted in an example of low-turnout democracy, have come up with an overall result which recognizes the importance of independence for these PCCs, and despite the additional burden of a relatively high number (2.9%) of spoilt ballot papers. These PCCs are also replacing the former police authorities whose members were chosen internally, generally unknown to the public and not electorally accountable.
The Police & Crime Commissioners now have the power to draw up plans & budgets for the police, as well as holding chief constables to account; at the same time they must maintain their independence, address the needs of local residents and challenge the government over funding. They will be held to account themselves by police and crime panels formed from local authority representatives.
It will be the quality & associated achievements of these individuals selected in the PCC elections which will determine whether the public will be much more enthused to vote again in 4 years time.

PCCs: A master class in how not to run an election