South Yorkshire PCC poll: Barnsley apathy suggests low turnout

BBC's Len Tingle explains the voting system to shoppers in Barnsley Bewildered Barnsley: The BBC's Len Tingle explains the voting system

Will the police and crime commissioner elections break all records for low turnout?

The Electoral Reform Society has forecast as few as one-in-five of the electorate will bother voting.

That could be a tad optimistic judging by the reaction I got on the streets of Barnsley with less than a week to go before the polls opened to choose the £85,000-a-year commissioner for the South Yorkshire force.

Few of those I buttonholed in the town's outdoor market had any intention of voting. I did not find a single one who could tell me the name of a candidate.

Barnsley bewildered

It is not as if Barnsley is one of those places where voting has gone out of fashion.

At the parliamentary by-election just 18 months ago 36% of voters turned up at the polling booths or sent in their postal ballots.

That was considered a very low turnout at the time but could now be a dream scenario for the PCC candidates across the entire country.

Barnsley's bewilderment was increased when I asked my randomly-selected shoppers if they had any idea that they will be able to put two crosses on the ballot paper.

Eyes glazed over as I explained the "Supplementary Vote" system which will be used to vote in our commissioners.

"If nobody gets more than 50% of the vote on the first ballot then the top two candidates will go to a run-off. That's when the second preference votes come into play. Of course, you don't have to make a second choice if you do not want to support any of the other candidates," I explained.

By this point most people had staged their own run-off, suddenly remembering they were in imminent danger of missing their bus. I suspect even the ones who had come to town by car gave me the same excuse.

So not that many heard me continue.

"If the candidate you put as first choice gets through to the run-off then your second preference is not counted. All the other second preferences are added to the totals of the top two candidates and the winner is the one with the most votes."

Fairer system?

Across England just North Yorkshire and Staffordshire will be using the traditional "first past the post" system where the winner simply has to have the most votes. That is because just two candidates are standing in those areas.

I had just one Barnsley shopper who stayed around long enough to ask me the obvious question.

Why are we using this system?

Well, the theory is that a "Supplementary Vote" system makes it fairer for a smaller party or an independent candidate to have a chance of winning.

For public elections it has been used just once in Yorkshire. It resulted in the then little-known English Democrat Peter Davies being elected as Mayor of Doncaster in 2009.

Len Tingle Article written by Len Tingle Len Tingle Political editor, Yorkshire

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  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    I disagree with the politicising of the police, but I will vote.

    I will vote for any non-political candidate, if there is one. If not, I will vote NOTA.

    NOTA votes are included in the count, and if 10% of a low turnout of 15% to 20% vote that way it will send a strong message to TPTB.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    So lets see, the BBC and other media spend MILLIONS covering the us elections, in which the UK electorate has NO say. They spend god knows how much covering the election of the london mayor, which has NO relevence to and the overwhelming majority of the UK electorate has no say in. So when the media dont cover an election is it any wonder that the UK electorate isnt interested in the non event

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    A few more puffed up, self important no hopers getting their noses in the trough, who cares. It seems that this latest bunch will have no powers except to draw an inflated salary, I just feel sorry for the coppers who will have to listen to a load of pompous waffle from a bunch of know nothings. makes you proud to be British.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    I have a postal vote. For the first time in my life I have deliberately spoilt my ballot, by crossing out all candidates and writing "I vote to keep the existing system which is not broken, so don't fix it. "

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Why would anyone care? The candidates don't seem to.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    I have a fond hope that many candidates will lose their deposits.

    We should have ballot papers with "None of the Above" as an option.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Lets be honest, as you only can be in Yorkshire.

    May, Cameron, Clegg and co have invented this extra layer of bureaucracy to protect themselves against their sinful push to privatise the Police Service.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    No candidate has even bothered to put a leaflet through letterboxes where I live, I had to sent for info.
    But I will boycott it anyway as I disagree with this being elected and a very low turn out could perhaps damage the process usefully.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Well, to be fair, few people knew much about this election. First thing I knew about it was when the papers dropped through my letter box then I had a scramble to find out something about the people asking for my vote.
    They haven't exactly been shouting from the rooftops about this.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    So if I'm right, Old way:- Chief Constable answers to to Un-elected Police Authority. New way:- Chief Constable answers to elected Police & Crime Commisioner, who answers to un-elected Police and Crime Panel (Aka Police Authority with a new name and greater political bias (members drawn from local authorities) Un elected overall control with elected scapegoat, who carries the can for any failings.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    @15 not sure its our judges calling the shots on this one? its more likely to be the red tape in Europe? But it should'nt stop English law and rights for England! If my memory serves me right is'nt that what the Magna Carta was for???

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    @1: There is a simple solution: Go along, but spoil the ballot paper. That way you exercise your right as a voter, and you will indeed be counted (spoilt papers count as a percentage of the overall ballot); but at the same time you make it very clear that you do not approve of the election and/or the candidates. This is what I'll be doing, anyway.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    @10 .Gabriel Oaks.

    You've hit the nail on the head there!
    People are so underwhelmed by the topic,they can't even be bothered to post a comment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    We dont need elections for pcc's but we do need them for judges so we can get rid of the one's that think its ok to go against the wishes of the country and free the likes of abu qatada on bail

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Politicians standing in elections. Whatever next?

    My objections are that this is an unnecessary, expensive layer of bureaucracy that will inevitably lead to conflict between elected politicians and the police chiefs. We were never consulted by referendum. Just another dumb ‘In The Thick of It’ type idea from Cameron.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    This whole thing is a sham and waste of money. I won't be voting because whoever wins will be leant on by their party or the indy winner (if they are lucky enough to get super low turnout) will just get ignored. Complete waste of time and my money yet again.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    My main concern is that most PCC candidates are standing on political platforms. To my mind, this is a position that should be politically neutral - we should not condone politics as a part of law enforcement. That has happened elsewhere in Europe in the 1930s and gave rise to a less than pleasnt result.
    Maybe just don't vote for a candidate with a political agenda?

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I don't know anyone who intends to vote in this election. No-one knows who our candidates are, and no-one is the least bit interested.

    Just another money wasting exercise....

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Just looking at the low turnout in this HYS......

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    We've all lost interest in the electoral process as a whole, simply because we've seen nothing changes, things actually get worse. It's been the same for 40 years or more. We're tired of it all. People will turn out when there's a real alternative. As for this police thingy, surely all the candidates are offering exactly the same thing? How differently can Commissioners actually do the job?


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