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 48.

    Voting is important - Politicising the police is important enough to vote against.

    Just write NOT WANTED across the ballot - not voting will not work, never has before.
    If every one votes - but no one picks a candidate , the sounds will be resounding that the people have spoken , and said none of you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    6. It's an waste of time and above all money: when police budgets are being cut by the idiot in Number 11!

    ....but it's too late to stop this stupidity now - so everyone vote for the non-party politicians to send the 655 idiots in the commons a message!

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    What makes this a stupid idea
    1. Almost no one is interested enough to vote,
    2. It's just more jobs for unwanted politicians
    3. It politicizes the management of the Police, who should be independent of party politics
    4. In areas of mixed policing, rural areas will be neglected compared to towns
    5. Will criminals crossing area boundaries where different political parties rule escape justice?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Why do we get to vote for something nobody asked for???

    Seriously WTH is wrong with this country!?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    £5000 deposit to play the game was surely designed to weed out all the independents leaving just the elite and party candidates. Party politics at its very worst!

    Stay away, send a message!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    I don't know anyone that wanted a referendum on changing the voting system, but the politicians gave us one.
    I don't know anyone that wants to vote for a police and crime commissioner, but we get a vote.
    I know lots of people who want a referendum on staying in the EU, but we don't get one, even when given a cast-iron guarantee. Trouble is, cast iron is brittle under pressure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Months ago I wrote to my MP, stating that I did not want PCC's.He replied with the usual claptrap that it was a Democratic move, etc.I want to know how removing the Police Authority, of whom 7 members are locally elected, and having one POLITICIAN, is an improvement in Democracy?

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Correction to #40 no Liberal on the ticket for Liberal read Ukip.
    Thats really going to make a difference.
    Yawn yawn, goodnight all.

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    Won't vote, can't be bothered. Nothing wrong with present system.
    Choice in my area between a Conservative, Labour, Liberal or a so called independent who just happens to be an ex Chief Executive of Durham County Council. All have political agenda of one sort or another.
    Jobs for the boys, waste of money, the gravy train rolls on.
    Get more police on the streets and stop playing silly bu**ers

  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    Surely to goodness any election asks the voter to vote in an informed way. Whether or not the result is what was wanted you get a feeling that you have 'done your bit'.
    I am expected to go along and vote for someone I have never heard of and do not know what they stand for? No! For the first time in my life I will not vote- many will never return for the General Elections etc. False democracy.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    Complete waste of time and money which could be better spent on recruiting more police officers. An election the country could do without when we have a 'deficit left over from the last Labour government to repay'. Are we still 'all in this together Mr Cameron'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    I don't think many people understand or want th change, and if there's a low turnout I think it would be absurd to claim any kind of democratic legitimacy.

    However, I will turn up ... with the firm intention of writing on my ballot paper "PCC's are an expensive farce". I think it's worth hoping that a high proportion of deliberately-spoiled papers might get taken notice of.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    Interesting that the public is 'too stupid' to use proportional representation for the general election but not when it is for the PCC.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    Real question is who exactly are we voting for???!!!

    As pointed out, I have received a polling card for this, but I have no idea of who is standing for the position!

    If you ask me it's like receiving a polling card for the US presidential elections, what am I gonna do with it, I have no interest nor any knowledge of what these people will do for me. Why have I been sent this?!

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    When a new PCC sets a budget, will there magically be more money to fund it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    Another seat on the gravy train for the political classes.

    Why is it that everything the polititions of either party touch turns to odure.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    I feel that the number of comments, or lack of such, just about sums up the interest of voters in the whole farce.

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Perhaps a little ironic that none of the comments on here seem to attracting many "Rating" votes!

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    The politico's have been trying to get control of the police in this country since 1829, now it seems they are finally going to get their way. A huge waste of time and resources. I hope everyone writes 'Non of the above' on their ballot papers so making the election void.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    I went on my local PCC election website to read the candidates' statements. They contain nothing but the most basic, clichéd and obvious promises and not one offered anything persuasive. If you have to promise to 'cut crime', to 'be tough on crime' or to 'protect victims of crime' (featuring in all four statements) then I'm assuming you have nothing to actually offer.


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