Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Warwickshire – some low turnout predictions.

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?

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4 Responses to Police and Crime Commissioner elections in Warwickshire – some low turnout predictions.

  1. In the event of a low turnout, Apathy is the winner, and the public get what they deserve

    • steveb1960 says:

      Alan, thanks for your comment yes apathy may well be the winner in these elections. Interesting that some predictions today have indicated a turnout of 18.5% which means that the winning candidate would only need 18896 votes. This is less than the votes recorded by 5 of the 6 winning MP’s at the 2010 election!

    • yllig says:

      I think it has nothing to do with apathy. I believe there is a large majority of voters who consider the appointment of a PCC is unnecessary and tantamount to potential corruption risks, so they may not vote for a PCC as they probably consider the existing Police Authorities in areas is a much more trustworthy overseeing Authority. The matter will not be in the hands of just one person, but a committee of several people and that has to be a fairer and more reliable situation.

      What is the mandate for the election of a Police Commissioner ? It seems to me that a very low turnout matters not, as even if one of the candidates receives 50% of a 10% turnout, that candidate will be elected ! I would have thought that low turnouts indicate mostly that people are against the whole idea ! Where was the national consultation for this new appointment ? Where and when were the general public asked for their opinions concerning this new post, seeing as it will be quite a change to how the police are overseen. What is the real agenda of the government in relation to this new appointment ? When one considers this subject carefully, one can see that it smacks at the start of dictatorship ! I understand that there will be a ‘panel’ to see over the PCC. If this is the case, why change from the existing Police Authorities ?

  2. steveb1960 says:

    Hi Gilly,

    Thanks for your comments I did question the low turnout issue but was informed that it does not matter even if only 1 person votes we will have exercised our right to vote or not and someone will be elected.

    The PCC will be held to account by a panel which I agree looks very much like the Police Authority however the difference is is that the power is now held by one specific elected person rather than the joint power of the Police authority. How this will actually work in practice is anyone’s guess. I foresee a lot of in house politics as the PCC tries to get enough members of the panel to support their plan and budget. Some are predicting something of a bloodbath as naive independents (if any are elected) are destroyed by the more politically astute members of the panel.

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