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Electoral Commission criticises 'shambolic' police and crime commissioner elections

By Rich_Booth  |  Posted: March 19, 2013

Devon and Cornwall commissioner Tony Hogg

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An inquiry has found that 80 per cent of voters felt they did not have enough information to make an informed choice for the police and crime commissioners elections in November last year.

The government has been criticised for believing that "simply holding" elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs) was enough to inspire people to vote.

Tony Hogg was elected as the Devon and Cornwall commissioner in November, he said that public awareness of the policing figurehead would "increase rapidly" when people "see the impact they make".

Labour have demanded an apology from the home secretary for the "serious failings" her department made in holding the "shambolic" elections.

The electoral commission found more than a third of those who did not vote blamed a lack of awareness, while nearly half of all Britons did not know "very much" about the elections.

A poll in February revealed that just one-in-ten people can name the new US-style police commissioner for their area.

The survey was carried out by the Electoral Reform Society, which said November's elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs) in 41 force areas "failed both candidates and voters alike".

More than a quarter of people said they knew "nothing at all" about the PCC elections, while 55%, found it difficult to access information about the candidates.

Electoral Commission chair Jenny Watson said: "There were many different reasons why people didn't vote last November and like any election there's a limit to how much these can be addressed by decisions government can make.

"But one of them was not knowing about the candidates and something can be done about that.

"It's not enough to think that simply holding an election will inspire participation. That's why at the 2016 PCC elections a candidate information booklet must be sent to every household."

Ms Watson added: "Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. It's vital that the rules surrounding them are clear, workable and in place in good time.

"The rules for these elections were confirmed unacceptably late, causing confusion for candidates and electoral administrators.

"The Home Office doesn't have experience in preparing for elections and they need to be better supported in future by the parts of government that do."

Amongst candidates wanting to become PCCs, the Commission said nearly half found it difficult to get the 100 signatures required for their nomination to stand - this compares to only 10 needed for a parliamentary election.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "More than five million people turned out to vote for the first ever election of PCCs, giving them an infinitely bigger mandate than the unelected and invisible police authorities they replaced.

"As the Electoral Commission notes, turnout at the next... elections is likely to be higher because they will take place alongside other leading polls and people will be more aware of the impact PCCs are making to deliver on public priorities in tackling crime."

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  • billinbarum25  |  March 19 2013, 6:14PM

    does it really take an inquiry and and the money wasted doing it to tell everyone what's already known by all. DOOOHH

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