The Electoral Reform Society has said the Government has some serious questions to answer, regarding the predicted lowest turnout of any nationwide election in British history. They will have cost a massive £75m, but evidence suggests that we can only hope for a turnout of around 18.5% – the lowest ever.
With just 9 days to go until the election I know of no one who has been to a hustings or met a candidate for this election. Whilst the government argue that the first election is ‘always difficult’. The Electoral Reform Society has said evidence from previous ‘first time’ elections clearly demonstrate this argument isn’t a ‘get out of jail free card’.
In addition we’ve seen £350,000 worth of English-only ballot papers shredded in Wales due to an administrative error in not making them bilingual.
Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:
“To make one mistake in this election could have been regarded as misfortune. To make the dozen or so blunders the Home Office have made to date just looks careless. There have been epic mistakes in every last detail of this election – from timing that will keep most voters at home, to huge deposits that have kept serious candidates away, and now ballot papers which will be shortly heading into landfill.
The UK Government has turned a flagship policy into farce. We have a role charged with serious powers that is now at risk of becoming a joke. The Home Office have obliged with a few videos and a website, but this has all come too late in the day. Few people know this election is happening, and even fewer really understand the nature of the role. There are plenty of big questions that the Government will have to answer post-election.”
The Society has examined turnout in first-time elections for English mayors and it is clear that the relatively low figures achieved in first time elections for English mayors are a million miles away from November’s expected numbers. Here is some usful data on ‘first-time elections’ – the turnout for mayoral elections in England:
- Watford 2002 – 37%
- Doncaster 2002 – 27%
- Hartlepool 2002 – 29%
- Lewisham 2002 – 25%
- Middlesbrough 2002 – 42%
- North Tyneside 2002 – 42%
- Newham 2002 – 26%
- Bedford 2002 – 25%
- Hackney 2002 – 26%
- Mansfield 2002 – 19%
- Stoke on Trent 2002 – 27%
- Torbay 2005 – 24%
- Tower Hamlets 2010 – 26%
- Salford 2012 – 26%
- Liverpool 2012 – 31%
The projected 18.5% for the PCCs is a failing of the election rather than individual candidates who are working hard and face a real challenge. Each candidate has to pay a £5,000 deposit, which they only receive back if they gain a set % of the vote – this has not encouraged many candidates to step up to the mark, and has meant many have far less budget available for publicity and leaflets which are the main way many make an informed decision when voting in an election. In addition the timing is poor – being on a dark winter’s night will not encourage as many voters as the traditional May election time. The Home Office have obliged with a few videos, and a website is finally up, but this has all come rather too late in the day.