With the results in for the first direct elections for police commissioners in England and Wales, the figures confirm that the voter turnout has been appallingly low.
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Yesterday, Thursday 15th November 2012, voters in the UK (or at least England and Wales) went to the polls for the first time to directly elect police commissioners to oversee the regional police forces. But according to opinion polls beforehand, public interest in the elections was not very high and many pundits expected voter turnout to be low. Was this indeed the case? Well with the results in formy own police area – West Mercia Police – we are at last able to answer that question.
The elected police commissioner with the task of overseeing West Mercia Police is Bill Longmore, an independent. According to the BBC police commissioner election website, the total number of valid votes in the area was a mere 134,850 voters (14.5% of the registered voters for the area). So only around one in seven voters even bothered to turn up and put a cross in a box!
This ties in well with my own experience. I turned out to vote at my local polling station at5:30pm, a time when I would have expected the polling station to be relatively busy with people stopping off to vote on their way home from work. But in fact it was empty! I walked in and was able to go right up to the election officials’ desk to get my ballot form, and had a free choice of voting booth as all were vacant! Even by the time I’d finished, only two other voters had turned up.
Actually, it seems that the real turnout was marginally higher than the figures suggest simply because spoiled ballots (those not filled in correctly and therefore discarded) aren’t counted in the total of votes cast. It seems that a number of people deliberately voted with a spoiled ballot form to register their dislike of all the candidates. This happened in police force areas where there was no independent candidate standing, no-one not aligned to one of the political parties. A lot of people felt strongly that the post of police commissioner should be apolitical.
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BBC News website