Spoilt ballots darken PPC Elections: the future doesn’t look so Bright

Rebecca Thomas - News Reporter 22 November 2012

Sir Graham Bright was elected as Cambridgeshire’s first Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) on Friday in an election about which students seemed to know very little and care even less. The Conservative candidate won 31,640 votes, ahead of Labour’s Ed Murphy with 25,114 after voting went to second preferences after the failure of any candidate to achieve a majority in the first round.

However, following the result there was far greater interest in the lowest turnout in electoral history than in the candidates themselves. Only 14.9% of those eligible to vote actually did so. The figures for Cambridge itself were even lower with a turnout of 14.69%.

Nobody has escaped criticism for the poor showing. Second placed Ed Murphy laid the blame on David Cameron, the government and his Tory opponent. In an exclusive statement to The Cambridge Student he commented: “The government did not promote the election and the PM kept quiet about it whilst the Tory Candidate did the very minimum he could get away with to keep out of the media and stayed away from every public hustings meeting.”

Newly elected PCC Sir Graham Bright believes that the government could have done more to promote the election. Speaking exclusively to TCS he said:

“There should have been free post so that everybody was given free literature. Instead there was a website which was difficult to navigate around. It should also have been held in May.”

Critics of the government’s policy have gone further and have pointed to the low turnout as a sign of the public’s opposition to the politicisation of the police force. Furthermore, the number of spoilt ballot papers was extremely high, with 3.3% of votes cast being declared void. The percentage of spoilt ballot papers in Cambridge was even higher, at 4.5%.

It would appear therefore that of those students who did vote, a significant proportion did not agree with the election. One such student was Kweku Abraham, a second-year Mathematician who spoilt his paper to voice his opposition. He said: “I don’t think the police should be party political. I thought a spoilt ballot was a better way of conveying that than not voting or voting for an independent.”

This in turn has raised concerns regarding the legitimacy of the newly elected police commissioner. Speaking to TCS, Cambridge University  Labour Club commented that the low turnout and spoilt ballots demonstrated that it was an election “that the public did not want” and that “there is no mandate for PCCs or Sir Graham Bright in his new role”. Sir Bright however does not feel that this impacts on his position in any way. He commented: “as far as I’m concerned I was elected, everybody had the chance to vote, I’m here to represent everybody whether they voted or not.”

Rebecca Thomas – News Reporter