I have been thinking about the possibility of a low turnout in Novembers Police and Crime Commissioners (PCC) elections and trying understand why Nick Herbert MP & Blair Gibbs seem to be so reluctant to answer questions about this subject.
In an effort to understand what a low turnout could mean I have made some predictions for Warwickshire my force as detailed below. What these illustrate to me is that a candidate may not need that many votes to be elected. A concerted campaign in one or two constituencies could be sufficient to win the election.
Who benefits the most from a low turnout in the elections remains to be seen but perhaps it explains Nick Herbert MP’s recent Ignore the criticisms of Police and crime Commissioners – we are giving the people a voice article at Conservative Home?
Several commentators are predicting a low turnout of between 20 and 30% for the forthcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections this November.Assuming that there is a low turnout I have tried to predict how many votes a candidate may need to become the first PCC in Warwickshire my own constabulary area?
The voting system in use is a variation of the Supplementary vote system. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the first preference votes they are elected as the PCC – this is in effect the standard first past the post system. This system is also used if there are only 2 candidates.
If there are more than 2 candidates & no one candidate receives the 50%+ necessary at the first count the second choices of voters are added to the first choice votes and the candidate who receives the most votes wins.
I have decided to use the the results from the General election in 2010 as my benchmark for the predictions. Although the numbers involved in terms of the electorate may have changed slightly they are sufficiently recent to be used to calculate the number of votes a candidate might need to become the PCC.
Set out below are figures from the General election:
Constituency Turnout Electorate Percentage
Kenilworth and Southam 48,431 64362 75.25%
North Warwickshire 47265 70138 67.39%
Nuneaton 44,646 67837 65.81%
Rugby 47468 68914 68.88%
Stratford upon Avon 50,542 69,517 72.70%
Warwick and Leamington 49032 67800 72.32%
Overall Totals 287384 408568 70.34%
The total eligible electorate at the 2010 election was 408568 & it is this number that I will use to determine the possible votes required in four different scenarios consisting of two first past the post scenarios with turnouts of 20%, and of 30% & two Supplementary vote scenarios with three and four candidates again using turnouts of 20 and 30% as detailed below:
A 20% turnout will yield 81714 votes and a 30% turnout 122570 votes.
In the first past the post scenarios the winning candidate needs to achieve just over 50% of the vote to win, with a 20% turnout that will require 40857(+) votes and with a 30% turnout 61286(+) votes. This equates to approximately ten and fifteen percent of the eligible electorate respectively.
The permutations under the supplementary vote system are almost endless; however the worst case scenario would see an almost equal divide of the votes between the candidates with no one casting a second preference vote.
In this scenario with 3 candidates standing the winning percentage of votes would be around 34% of the turnout assuming the votes are evenly spread across the 3 candidates. This would equate to 27783 votes at 20% turnout and 41674 votes at 30% turnout.
Keeping with the no second preference votes cast scenario above with 4 candidates standing for election the minimum winning percentage of votes required will be approximately 26% of the turnout this would equate to 21246 votes at 20% turnout and 31868 votes at 30% turnout.
Based on these scenarios it is conceivable that if the turnout is as low as 20% and if my worst case scenario comes true that a PCC could be elected with under 22000 votes or 5.3% of the eligible electorate.
In my best case scenario whereby the candidate achieves just over 50% of the vote at a 30% turnout the PCC is elected by 15% of the eligible electorate.
I accept that these are all low turnout worst case scenarios and in reality the turnout and the votes cast could be much higher. If for example the turnout matched the general election of 70% the minimum votes required for a first past the post win would be 143000 and in an equal split four candidate supplementary vote win the minimum votes would be 71500 (at just over 25%).
However it is possible that a low turnout scenario may apply and in these cases a PCC could be elected on just 5, 10 or 15% of the eligible electorate.
I accept that that is the system and that they have won the election and the right to be the first PCC but how that translates into a credible valid mandate remains to be seen.
Perhaps this is why Nick Herbert and Blair Gibbs have avoided answering the question?