Paddy Tipping, Nottinghamshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, has welcomed a report published by the Electoral Commission looking at the way in which the first elections for PCCs, held last November, were managed. In particular, he supports the concept of a free door to door information leaflet for every candidate.
The report recommends significant changes before the next PCC elections are held in 2016 and identifies wider lessons for the way elections and referendums are delivered. It also found that only one in five people (22%) had enough information on their Police and Crime Commissioner candidates to make an informed decision.
"Quite frankly," said Mr Tipping, "These elections were a shambles! People didn't know who was standing, or what they were standing for. The dark mornings and early evenings of November don't inspire people to turn out and vote, particularly if they are unaware of what it's all about and what it means to them.
"Candidates, who were expected to canvass a far larger geographical area than an MP has to cover, could not possibly hope to get material out to voters in every household across their area due to the cost - and the sheer scale of the operation.
"There were ways round this with a bit of foresight. The Electoral Commission spent £35 million on a door to door mail drop telling voters how to vote using the new supplementary voting system. It would have been incredibly simple for candidates to have had the opportunity to include information in this mailing at their own cost.
"However, I don't think that even the guide went in to every home, although some people told me it was delivered inside a pizza leaflet!
"This is why I firmly support calls for a free mailshot to for all candidates. To my knowledge, no household in Nottinghamshire received information about all four candidates and independent candidates were at a real disadvantage as they didn't have access to experienced support frameworks.
"Next time, it will be different. People will know what it's all about because of the work my PCC colleagues and I are doing. However, for the maiden elections I believe an effective, long-running awareness campaign would have helped enormously. Relying predominantly on people to visit a website of their own volition and download the information was risky. And, if you're not aware that something is happening, you won't go to look for information about it - and they didn't."
Posted on Wednesday 20th March 2013