Sunday, 18 November 2012

When the Electoral Commission Conduct a Review of the PCC Elections it Needs to Take a Hard Look at Itself

It came as no surprise on Friday that the Electoral Commission announced that it is to conduct a review of the PCC elections.

It shouldn't take too long and probably could be conducted during a commercial break as it does not need membership to Mensa to realise that an election to any new post will always have a reduced turnout but combined with holding a national set of elections in November as well as lack of information about the candidates available to the electorate then it is hardly a surprise that turnout in Essex was below 13%.

What is inexcusable for me was the guidance given by the Electoral Commission in polling stations and on postal ballots as to how to fill in your ballot paper.

With the supplementary vote system used for the first time in large parts of the country, it was imperative that the guidance was accurate and factually correct. The guidance, shown on the picture, was standard across the country. The main issue is that the guidance says that you mark a cross in a box on column one and also a cross in a box on column two, whereas the correct advice should say that a second preference vote was optional.

In the first few days of the postal votes being issued, I received three calls from residents saying that they didn't want to choose a second candidate. My in-laws who voted in Waltham Abbey were told
by polling staff that if they didn't choose a second candidate their ballot paper would be rejected!

As I had a proxy vote for my brother, who was away on Election Day I needed to visit the polling station. I put the staff to the test and asked if I had to choose a second candidate and, to their credit, I was told that it was optional.

What concerns me is that the advice given could have impacted some of the results across the country. For example, in Warwickshire, the Labour candidate was ahead of the Independent candidate after first preference votes. As it is inevitable that most people who have allegiance to a particular party will not want to vote for another party, based on the advice given with postal votes and in polling stations it is not unreasonable to assume that if forced to vote for a second candidate they would take a punt on an Independent candidate which ment that the Independent candidate won after second preference votes were counted.

These elections have without question have been conducted in a shambolic manor which would disgrace a banana republic. I just hope that I never have to see a set of elections conducted in the same way ever again.

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