“This election could descend into a farce” warns Green Party PCC candidate for Norfolk.

Martin explaining the voting system to local residents
Martin explaining the “supplementary voting” system to local residents in Norwich

Green Party PCC candidate, Martin Schmierer, has warned that the forthcoming local elections could be marred with problems, with two different voting systems being used and added EU referendum election ballots being potentially included.

On May 5th voters will go to the polls across Norfolk to elect their next Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC).

There are also simultaneous local council elections going on in Norwich and Great Yarmouth, while the PCC elections use a form of supplementary voting system.

This supplementary vote works as follows:

Voters can vote for their first and second preference on the ballot paper – or for just one candidate, if they wish. If a candidate gains more than 50% of the vote, s/he wins. If not, all candidates except the two with the most votes are eliminated. The votes cast for other candidates are redistributed to their second preference. Of the two remaining candidates, the one with the most votes is then declared the winner.

This means there is no such thing as a ‘wasted’ vote, since you can give your first preference to a candidate from a smaller party, knowing that if s/he is eliminated, your second preference will be counted.

There has already been considerable concern that turnout will be very low, with only 15% of eligible electors taking part at the last PCC elections in 2012.

The Green Party’s candidate, Martin Schmierer has also raised the possibility that the different voting systems may confuse some voters in the polling stations.

“If the Scottish Holyrood elections of 2007 are anything to go by, 3% or 4% of people may not fully comprehend this voting system and this may be exacerbated by the fact that nothing has been done by the government to explain how this poll will work.”

In 2007, almost 150,000 votes were deemed “spoilt” because of different voting systems for the elections and the simultaneous local elections that were happening that day.

Martin Schmierer continued:

“This ‘spoilt ballot’ margin may well be the difference between someone winning or losing. Added to this there is also the problem that the EU referendum is looming and the postal votes for this will be dropping on peoples’ doormats soon, potentially even before polling day on May 5th”

Returning officers who oversee the EU Referendum locally have been encouraged to send out postal votes as soon as possible to ensure that voters living abroad receive them in time to vote on 23rd June. The consequence of this is that they may well reach households before the 5th May local elections.