Electoral Commission
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Electoral Commission calls for more public information ahead of Police and Crime Commissioner Elections

The Electoral Commission has published its report on the administration of the 2016 Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Elections and local Government elections which took place in May.

The report concludes that the elections were well-run. Voters were confident in the voting process and were satisfied with the process for registering to vote. However, as in 2012, voters reported a lack of awareness about the role of the PCCs and what the elections were, as well as a lack of information about the candidates.

The Commission has previously called on the UK Government to amend the legislation to allow a candidate information booklet to be sent to all households in each police force area ahead of the PCC elections. The findings of this report continue to support this recommendation.

Andrew Scallan CBE, Director of Electoral Administration at the Electoral Commission said:

“Voters have consistently told us that they do not have the information they need ahead of these elections to make an informed decision about who to vote for. This is a fundamental problem that needs to be addressed, which is why we continue to recommend that provision is made for candidate information to be sent to every household as happens at  elections for local authority executive mayors.”

The Commission also highlights the significant risk that the unprecedented number of combined polls, currently scheduled to take place in 2020 presents.

The way in which elections across England will be combined in 2020 will mean that voters in some areas will be faced with a number of different ballot papers using a number of different voting systems.

This will present significant challenges for voters, candidates and campaigners, and electoral administrators, and advance planning by all those involved in the management and delivery of the polls will be crucial.

The Commission is recommending that the UK Government should immediately begin the necessary analysis and consultation on the risks of holding these polls on the same day, including giving consideration to the potential for changing the date of elections.

Any decision to change the date of the elections must be informed by appropriate consultation between the Electoral Commission, relevant Government departments, elected bodies, political parties, administrators and voters themselves to ensure that the interests of voters are put first.

Key recommendations

  • The Commission has again called on the UK Government to ensure that voters receive a candidate information booklet ahead of future PCC elections.
  • The Commission has again recommended that the UK Government changes the way in which instructions appear on the ballot paper for the PCC elections to reduce confusion for voters. We are disappointed that the UK Government did not, as we had recommended, make changes to the PCC ballot paper before the 2016 elections and call on them to amend the ballot paper before the next set of PCC elections.
  • Any amendments to the legislation for running the next PCC elections should be made by no later than November 2019 and the UK Government should make clear at the time of introducing legislation how they will ensure that electors have appropriate access to information about PCC candidates.
  • The complexity of the combined polls that are currently scheduled for 2020 should be considered carefully by the UK Government, including whether the polls should be moved to different dates.
  • The Commission reiterates its recommendation that the UK Government should develop an online system that would allow voters to check whether they are already registered before they submit a new application.

Headline figures from the report

  • Across all areas holding PCC elections in England and Wales, fewer than three in ten respondents said they knew either a great deal or a fair amount about the PCC elections, and 72% said they did not know very much or nothing at all.
  • Knowledge of local elections was higher. In areas where local elections were combined with PCC elections, 58% of respondents said they knew about the local elections in their area
  • Almost twice as many people said that they found it difficult to access information on the PCC candidates compared with local election candidates (44% compared with 23%). In Wales, only 12% of people said it was difficult to access information about candidates at the NAW elections.
  • Candidates themselves were also overwhelmingly negative about the Government’s arrangements for communicating the views of candidates to voters, with 96% of those who responded to our survey saying that they were dissatisfied with the arrangements.
  • Turnout in combined authorities for the PCC elections was 32.8% compared with 20.2% where there were only PCC elections. Where the PCC elections were combined in Wales with the NAW elections turnout was 45.2% (15.4% in 2012).
  • Almost 33.7 million people were registered to vote in the Police and Crime Commissioner elections on 5 May 2016: 31.4 million in England and 2.25 million in Wales.
  • Overall turnout at the elections was 27.3%. Turnout at the 2012 PCC elections was 15.1%.
  • Sixteen percent of the electorate were issued with a postal vote. As usual turnout among them was higher than among polling station voters: 61.6% compared with 20.6%.  For the local government elections, 17% of the eligible electorate were issued with a postal vote, turnout among them was 67.9% compared with 27.5% among those who voted in person.

The full report is available on the Commission’s website.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/215074/2016-PCC-elections-report.pdf

Voters in Wales also elected Police and Crime Commissioners on Thursday 5 May 2016, in elections that were combined with elections to the National Assembly for Wales. The Commission has today also published a separate report on the elections in Wales.

https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/215097/2016-NAW-election-report.pdf

For further information contact Electoral Commission press office on 020 7271 0704 orpress@electoralcommission.org.uk Out of office hours 07789 920 414

Notes to editors

  1. The Electoral Commission is an independent body set up by the UK Parliament. Our aim is integrity and public confidence in the UK’s democratic process. We regulate party and election finance and set standards for well-run elections and are responsible for the conduct and regulations of referendum held under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act (2000).
  2. On Thursday 5 May 2016 there were Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) elections held across 40 police force areas in England and Wales (but not in London or Greater Manchester). There were also elections to local authorities across parts of England, and mayoral elections in Bristol, Liverpool and Salford.
  3. On the same day there were also elections elsewhere in the UK. These were:Scottish Parliament; Northern Ireland Assembly; National Assembly for Wales; Police and Crime Commissioner elections in England and Wales (not Greater Manchester or London); City mayoral elections in Salford, Bristol and Liverpool; Local Government elections in parts of England
  4. This report looks specifically at the administration of the PCC elections across England and Wales, including the combination of the polls for the PCC elections with the National Assembly for Wales elections and English local government elections. For more information on the PCC elections please see our media handbook here
  5. In 2020, the following elections are currently scheduled to take place: UK Parliamentary general election; Police and Crime Commissioner Elections in England and Wales; Greater London Authority and London Mayoral elections; Combined Authority Mayoral elections in parts of England; Local Government elections in parts of England; Directly Elected Mayors in parts of England; In addition, there may also be neighbourhood planning and council tax referendums in some areas in England
  6. The Commission will be publishing further reports on the conduct of each of the elections that took place across the UK on Thursday 5 May 2016. For information relating to other election reports please contact the Electoral Commission press office.

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