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Low turnout predicted for election of new police chief

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: November 16, 2012

Voting for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections under way at Callington Town Hall, in Cornwall

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Fears were voiced yesterday that the turnout for the Westcountry's first police and crime commissioner election could be "very low" after a slow start at the polls.

Ten candidates – the most of any of the 41 elections nationally – are fighting for the £85,000-a-year post in Devon and Cornwall.

The victor, who will be announced this evening, will control key issues such as the police budget, overall strategy, and hold senior officers to account.

Despite being billed as the biggest change to policing for 50 years and bringing an unprecedented level of accountability to local policing, concerns have repeatedly been raised about the lack of public interest in the ballot.

And that appeared to be playing out across the two counties yesterday as candidates reported that polling stations were quiet.

Independent candidate Ivan Jordan said: "From what I have seen it is low. I went to one polling station and they said there had only been a turnout of 5% up until noon. I think if we get over 20% it will feel like a victory."

The Government refused to pay for candidate leaflets to be delivered to households, as is normal in General Elections. As result Mr Jordan said it had only done "half a job".

He added: "The fact it moved online and onto social media has probably done me a big favour. But it has been very hard talking to people in the street who have said they haven't had enough information to get a handle on it."

Numerous warnings have been issued about turnout with critics of the elections saying it would undermine new commissioners' mandate.

The Electoral Reform Society, which said fewer than one in five voters could turn out, described the situation as "a perfect storm, which could result in the lowest turnout for a national election in British history".

Another independent candidate Brain Greenslade said: "The feedback is that voting has been very slow and that projections the turnout could be very low are going to be realised."

Votes were last night being verified at centres across the two counties before being moved to the count at Carn Brea, in West Cornwall.

Counting will start at 11am with the winner due to be announced at 8pm.

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