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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  • Comment number 108.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

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    Comment number 107.

    While we still have the option of voting in governmental affairs I ask everyone registered to attend their polling station and if like me they think the whole proceedings an expensive waste of time to write NOTA on their ballot paper (none of the above ) . To fail to turn up might mean that in future years other more important decisions will be made without public vote.citing voter apathy .

  • rate this

    Comment number 106.

    I'll be voting for the Tory candidate in my local police election. All of the candidates have roughly the same policy platform (cutting crime), but the Tory candidate talks about his past experience on the police authority and a bit of online research has shown that our police authority has had a budget surplus ever since the Tories took control of it. That's a record I think is worth voting for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 105.

    In West Yorkshire we have a choice between a party candidate who chaired the ineffective Police Authority for ten years, two candidates from parties who want to cut Police spending, or an independent candidate with decades of exemplary service in the Police and who wants to help make West Yorkshire Police an institution we can once again be proud of. I know who I'll be voting for.

  • rate this

    Comment number 104.

    For the first time ever I will not be voting at an election and that galls me. I fundamentally disagree with politicising policing. If the government insists on PCC elections then candidates should only be allowed to stand as independents and not represent political parties.

    This system lends itself to playing to the populist gallery rather than looking at long term strategic aims.

  • rate this

    Comment number 103.

    This is what happens when political dogma forces events.At a time of severe welfare cutbacks the government is more than happy to waste tax payers money in a phoney election that no one is interested in and no one will vote!
    Not surprisingly an extremely low turnout will still validate the winner's authority
    Democracy at work?

  • rate this

    Comment number 102.

    I have not received any information about the local candidates. If not for the local press I would not know who they are. And if not for the BBC I would not know that one of them is implicated in a possible failure to declare an interest case in his position as a councillor because the local press is disturbingly quiet on the matter.

  • rate this

    Comment number 101.

    The demoralisation and ruin of the NHS is now a fait accompli thanks to privatisation policies emanating from phony 'charity' Think-Tanks shielding their funding corporations from all eyes but whose own eyes see only lucrative contracts.So remember, remember 15th of November: Think-Tank financiers ( will also determine the Short-Selling and Futures of brave Police - but our Guilts.

  • rate this

    Comment number 100.

    Looking at the comments here and seeing people's reactions when interviewed about these elections on TV ,a large number of people are either not going to go to the polls or if they do,will spoil their vote.
    I reckon that this should make the whole thing invalid but apparently it won't.

  • rate this

    Comment number 99.

    Is there a pirate party candidate? I would vote for them. The only politician I'd trust not to be in the pockets of the BPI.

  • rate this

    Comment number 98.

    I can choose from any one of four party political wonks. They have detailed their plans in less than two paragraphs of text, written by their parties. My gut feeling is this is a stitch up, to get more political snouts into the publicly funded wage trough. I am tired of party politicians who have nothing to offer. I fear Police authority will be weakened by the meddling of these fools.

  • rate this

    Comment number 97.

    If you hold an election on the cheap, it will enevitably end up cheapened.

    We are expected to vote on this important and highly complex issue while largely remaining in ignorance of ANY candidates actual intentions.
    A bit of biased party political scrible on a leaflet, if you get one, is NOT valid evidence of reasoning to enable competant & informed vote for any individual.

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    Comment number 96.

    I will be spoiling my balot paper tommorrow. I dont see this role as a job which is advertised. Nothing to do with politics and a half hearted way to make is believe we still live in a democracy. I dont want this vote I want a
    In / Out vote on the most important matter that is the EU membership, I shall be writing this on my balot paper

  • rate this

    Comment number 95.

    I am a local activist for a political party. Lots of people say they have no information about their candidates, and the reason for it is this: for general elections all parties get one leaflet delivered free in the post. This has not been the case this time around. Myself and around a dozen others have 25,000 leaflets to deliver by hand. Plus we all have full time jobs, it's not an easy task!

  • rate this

    Comment number 94.

    Looking at my list of local candidates, none address the issues i consider to be important. Many are also ex-military, or rich. I do not want any of these as my Police Comissioner, so in all likelyhoood I will not vote. I would rather see a low turnout that have people vote just because they can - this applies to the general election as well.

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    Comment number 93.

    If P&CCs are needed, why are an array of chief constables, assistant CCs, commissioners & their deputies needed? Why so many chiefs when there aren't enough indians (on the beat)? Once again it's a case of bureaucracy gone mad, with tax payers funding the gravy train! Wouldn't waste shoeleather walking to vote for any of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 92.

    Having seen the candidates on Look North, I've decided not to vote for the first time ever. I don't want another political puppet spouting the usual party lines. I want someone whose only agenda is a better police force. Their comments were generalised nonsenses: 'more police on the streets' - really!

  • rate this

    Comment number 91.

    I didn't like the promotion campaigns saying it was your chance to decide on what crimes should take priority. I don't want to pick and choose what crimes should be policed, they all should.

  • rate this

    Comment number 90.

    I am not sure what the minimum age is for these jobs, i reckon a 18yr old could land an £85k job with a good mates campaign on Facebook / media sites. and whats more they would have been voted in. food for thought.
    personally, I like all of the people i have spoke to haven't a clue what it is about or what i am voting for
    what difference will the elected person be allowed to make make?None

  • rate this

    Comment number 89.

    Planning spoiling my vote.
    For the Same reason as many others.


    Why is it we are never told the number of deliberately spoiled votes in elections? - bet the figure for the last general election would have been an eye-opener to the Govt.


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