Whenever you vote at an election someone takes your electoral role number and marks it off on a register before handing you the voting form. Although I have often wondered what use that information is put too it is only this week that I have come to understand what a useful tool this information can be to those seeking election whether its as an M.P., Councillor or now as a PCC.
After an election candidates and agents can purchase copies of the Marked Register to see who voted in a particular county, city, town, village, street etc. On its own this is helpful because it gives an indication as to whose doors would be politicians should be knocking on in future elections.
However where it really comes into its own is when the Marked Register is compared with the results of canvassing for previous elections. If a political party has a list of those people who said they would vote for them and a list of those who actually voted on election day they can compare lists and identify those people who actually voted on the day and who therefore may have voted for them.
It is true that those identified may not have actually voted for the particular party on the day but it does provide a targeted list of people to visit prior to the next election. Visiting those people who actually go out and vote is a much better use of time than blanket visiting every residence in an attempt to connect with those who actually vote.
Assuming that Independent candidates can access the Marked Register they can identify who voted and so have something of a target audience to visit in pre election canvassing but they do not have a list of voters who are likely to vote for them because this is the first PCC election and so the data does not exist.
In the forthcoming PCC elections this clearly gives another advantage to those standing for political parties as providing they have done their research they will know who they should visit as both probable voters and probable supporters.
This will make it even more difficult for independent candidates to win these elections and demonstrates that in my opinion this is clearly not a level playing field.
As Tom Waterhouse points out it is the well prepared candidates who will have the best chance.