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, Political editor, Yorkshire 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 .

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    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.

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    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
    +3

    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.

 

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