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 88.

    I have access to a computer [obviously] but I know many people who don't. I have talked these people, mainly elderly, and they don't know anything about the election and have no information. The Government have to realise that there are people in this country that don't have internet access.

  • rate this

    Comment number 87.

    ... and our candidates were two independents, one conservative, one labour, one UKIP and one "English Democrats".

    a fair range of political and non-political views.

    second transferable vote allows room for manoeuvre too.

  • rate this

    Comment number 86.

    Strange that we get “Democracy” when most have absolutely no interest in elected police commissioners.
    But we are refused “Democracy” on the EU, independence, the monarchy, the death sentence and hundreds of other emotive issues.

    Me thinks this “Democracy” lark ain’t about the people having a say, it about elites doing what THEY want

    I ain't voting, I stopped playing the game

  • rate this

    Comment number 85.

    Party politics has no place in policing. I can understand that the same kind of individual who wants to micro-manage, by legal coercion, every aspect of our lives would be drawn to becoming a PCC but we should not be facilitating their rise up the political chain by printing rosettes or torches next to their names.

    Let them campaign as individuals not as slaves to party doctrines.

  • rate this

    Comment number 84.

    Planning spoiling my vote.
    For the Same reason as many others.
    (In Thames Valley I looked on the website to find out about my candidates and some were shamefully lacking in content)

  • rate this

    Comment number 83.

    The organisation has been fine.
    I did receive the government leaflet.
    I have received personalised canvassing leaflets from two of the candidates.
    I was able to read all the manifestos on line.
    I have voted.
    It is up to others if they can't be bothered!!

  • rate this

    Comment number 82.

    The organisation of this election has been poor. No one that I have spoken to has received the leaflet promised. It's now 2 day before the election & many of the elderly people I know don't have a clue who is standing because they don't have internet access (or don't know how). Just like everything this gov't touches it's poorly planned & designed to inject more political interference.

  • rate this

    Comment number 81.

    Why replace a properly functioning diverse committee representing different sexes, faiths, age groups, ethnic backgrounds etc. with just one inevitably politically and socially biased person?

    Nobody asked the public whether they wanted this new system. What is the purpose of this other than to gain political control of the Police?

    My 'X' will go in a box marked 'not wanted'

  • rate this

    Comment number 80.

    TV adverts regarding PCC elections are a joke. All they are doing is creating more anxiety about crime and criminals. They are peddled to appear that the police are ineffective and uncoordinated when crime is actually falling. I am appalled at the Government simply scrapping something that wasn't broken in the first place. All they want are local puppets they manipulate at will. I won't vote.

  • rate this

    Comment number 79.

    I agree with this move in principle so I watched a debate among our local candidates, it went something like this:

    5 minutes of introduction. They were all members of a political party.

    1 minute of telling us what they would do, which amounted to vague promises to speak to people and make visits to police stations.

    The rest of the time arguing about who was the least political.

  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    It seems that this is just an expensive employement scheme for party political activists & in future will be based upon "fright" campaigning of who can be tougher on crime, fragmenting policing with bias resourcing targetted towards comissioner political ideologic demands at detrimental of "balanced" policing with limited resources.
    1 or 2 areas of biased policing may gain, others will LOSE

  • rate this

    Comment number 77.

    Having seen the contempt our glorious politicians in Westminster have for the law, how is it going to work when a politician is a “police and crime commissioner“

    Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Sometimes translated as “Who will watch the watchmen?”

  • rate this

    Comment number 76.

    I would have voted in this election if there was an independant candidate and not puppets of the party system. To promote complete independance there should have been a ban on candidates being afiliated with a political party. There has been no publicity in my area, no leaflets through the doors etc. Total waste of money.

  • rate this

    Comment number 75.

    No-one is interested because PCCs are just another layer of management ie a pointless waste of money.

    I dont even know who is standing around here, they can't be bothered to promote themselves.

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Politicizing the Police is the stupidest policy to date. It serves no purpose and will lead to far more dissatisfaction with the police, not less, as forces are bullied into diverting resources towards the Commissioner's favourite hobby-horse rather than where needed.

    Boycott it.

  • rate this

    Comment number 73.

    The vast majority of those put forward for election are political party affiliated.

    Already local councils compete & argue with County councils, who are often of opposite party affliliation. This PCC election just adds another layer of argument & confussion as it competes directly with front line policing.

    A main issue, is that a bad/poor crime commissioner cannot be sacked for 4 years

  • rate this

    Comment number 72.

    There are few issues that Unite people of different Political and economic viewpoints.
    The sheer futility of these elections is one that does.

  • rate this

    Comment number 71.

    Here in Cheshire the apathy is being displayed by the individuals who fancy being the PCC.

    None have troubled in the slightest to do any campaigning. None has bothered to let the electorate know what they stand for, or what they would like to do if elected.

    Is voter apathy surprising in the face of such apathy shown by the candidates?

  • rate this

    Comment number 70.

    Talking about the Union strikes Lord Henley in the Lords stated

    "I cannot believe that there is anyone who will support a strike of this sort other than that 12% of PCS members who voted for the strike. We are currently checking the legality ... and [if so] ... we will take the appropriate remedies in the courts."

    If we get a similar percentage vote for a PCC will we get a similar reaction?

  • rate this

    Comment number 69.

    Silentmist - if your problem is apathy, I suppose you won't vote. But if you're against PCCs, the legitimate response is to spoil your ballot. I have a postal vote and I've sent it in adorned with an essay on the separation of powers.


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