PCCs - How not to run an election

18 Aug 2012

In 1998 voter turnout in Metropolitan Council elections outside London hit 25.2%. It was the lowest turnout figure in modern times. The approaching Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections now threaten to break that record.


The elections in November will cost a whopping £75m but evidence suggests that we can only hope for a turnout of around 18.5%.


We’ve looked at some of the key drivers of voter turnout. From calling a poll in November, from holding back on any opportunity for candidates to make their case to voters, the government seems to have done everything in its power to keep polling stations empty.


From the start the PCC elections have been marred by controversy and now it seems that the Home Office is shirking its responsibility to provide voters with even the most basic information that the elections are taking place.


The stated purpose of electing Police and Crime Commissioners was to improve accountability and reconnect the public and the police - an aim which is clearly undermined by a painfully low turnout.


The Home Office’s 5 point plan to drive turnout into the ground


  1. Do not conduct a mail out with information about the elections and the candidates
  2. Only provide information online so that the 7m people on the electoral roll who don’t regularly access the internet are unlikely to know its happening
  3. Set up a helpline but don’t activate it until 23 days before the election is due to take place
  4. Hold the election in November when no other elections are taking place (research shows that winter elections have significantly lower turnout than those held in summer months³)
  5. Include no provisions for information in accessible formats for people with sight difficulties or in any other languages.


Despite the fact that independence and diversity were proclaimed as important features of PCC candidates, unrealistic eligibility rules mean that strong independent candidates with minor misdemeanours in their teenage years could be excluded. This is in addition to the fact that independent candidates were already hampered by the lack of a funded mail out as unlike party candidates they will have no network of campaigners or party resources behind them to help them reach out to large constituencies.


Conversely an extremely low turnout could unfairly advantage extremist candidates who would never succeed in winning over a bigger proportion of the electorate.


The PCC elections is beginning to look like a perfect storm.


Those pulling the strings have not done their homework and as a result this election looks primed to degenerate into a complete shambles. Put simply, if the people elected to localise decision-making over how our streets are policed, do not represent local people, what is the point of having them?


See:  How low can you go? Projecting turnout for the Police and Crime Commissioner Elections



6 Responses to PCCs - How not to run an election

BAB 19 Aug 2012

What date is the election?

Electoral Reform Society's picture
Electoral Refor... 20 Aug 2012

15 November Bab

Electoral Reform Society's picture
Electoral Refor... 20 Aug 2012

In response to http://topofthecops.com/2012/08/19/turned-out-nice-again/

We used locals as a baseline was because there hasn’t been any European elections this parliament.

Local, European and mayorals elections generally have turnouts in around the same vicinity. The Europeans in 2009 was 34% across the whole of the UK (this includes Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, we would expect higher turnout in the first two).

Mayorals also have a mailout and also have turnouts in the same range.

The main methodological problem is the size of the constituencies. According to http://www.wzb.eu/sites/default/files/personen/geys.benny.328/electoral_...
there are 28 academic studies which show a link between population size and turnout. This is partially because maintaining a high intensity campaign over a larger population range is much harder, especially for independent campaigns.

Wards have a population of about 3-5,000. Police authorities have populations in the range of about 1 to 1.7 million.

The mail outs estimate was not a measure of the mail out per se but a measure of campaign intensity. Without the
mailout campaign intensity will almost certainly be much lower due to the large constituency sizes.

Joel 25 Aug 2012

Could ERS use its contacts to find 'safe' extremist candidates with some wacky policies, eg, jedi police 'force' or police wearing flower garlands or carrying Nerf guns. This could raise the profile of how undemocratic these elections are (and also raise the profile of ERS).

prsjm3qf 28 Aug 2012

I have no intention of voting in this or any other election. Voting only legitimizes the behaviour of our political class and that is the only reason they want us to vote. I have voted in elections for 30 years and have never been represented by anyone. Eventually the penny drops that we are allowed to vote but we don't have democracy. Voting only changes the faces, not the policies.

Kris 15 Nov 2012

So glad that I'm not alone and therefore "stupid" in thinking the exactly the same thing. Thank you for giving us all a voice.