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PCC elections condemned as ‘complete shambles’ and ‘comedy of errors’, with ‘worst turnout ever’

A poor turnout and spoilt ballot papers have left the police and crime commissioner elections in “complete shambles”, Labour have said, as David Cameron is forced to insist elected candidates will still have a mandate.

4:25PM GMT 16 Nov 2012

• Turnout as low as 10 per cent and no votes at one station

• David Cameron forced to clarify elected PCCs will have mandate

• Furious voters spoil ballot papers in protest

• Labour: election is “complete shambles”

• Electoral Commission launch inquiry

See live results map

The drastically low turnout at the police and crime commissioners elections has been condemned as “lamentable”, with critics calling the vote a “comedy of errors” and “complete shambles”.

The Electoral Commission has today launched an inquiry into the organisation of the election, saying the poor turnout was a “concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

David Cameron was forced to defend the outcome, insisting elected candidates would have a mandate despite a few as one in ten people bothering to go the polls in some areas.

Labour condemned the elections as a “complete shambles”, as one Conservative politician announced he regretted ever voting in favour of the Bill.

The turnout was so dire that one polling station in Newport, South Wales, was not visited by a single voter.

By this afternoon, concerns had been raised that voters were deliberately spoiling their ballot papers in protest against the position of politically-affiliated police and crime commissioners.

Overall, fewer than one in five voters went to the polls, amid fears the general public did not understand the role of police and crime commissioner and were not aware of what candidates stood for.

In Coventry, the Liberal Democrat candidate Ayoub Khan polled just 783 votes; 100 fewers than the number of spoilt ballot papers.

The Electoral Commission watchdog has today announced a review of the election process, warning the low participation level was “a concern for everyone who cares about democracy”.

Jenny Watson, who chairs the Electoral Commission, said: “The Government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with.”

Katie Ghose, the chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This election has been a comedy of errors from start to finish. There have been avoidable errors at every step, and those responsible should be held to account.”

Prof John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University and polling expert, said voters had been left “struggling” after candidates for the police and crime commissioner elections all promised much the same thing.

He said the turnout, which could be the worst in any national election ever, would “raise questions” about the merits of the system, which saw the public voting with their feet by staying away from the polls.

Labour said it was “shocking” that the Government had spent up to £100 million on elections which had failed to engage the public, while Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron warned it would be “extremely difficult” for PCCs to claim a mandate when they were elected by just seven to eight per cent of registered voters in their area.

Mr Cameron insisted: “Yes, they have a mandate. The turnout was always going to be low, when you’re electing a new post for the first time, but remember these police and crime commissioners are replacing organisations that weren’t directly elected at all.”

Speaking at the PCC count in Lancashire, Blackburn MP Jack Straw said: “The turnouts are lamentable but that is the fault of the Government for constructing them in this system in the first place.

“It was almost as if the Conservatives were embarrassed by the idea of having these polls. Well, some may say they have got what they wished for.

“It is no good saying we have got the idea established. This is a very poor start for these police commissioners, whichever party they come from.”

Conservative backbencher Conor Burns posted on Twitter: “I suspect we will live to regret creating these police commissioners. I regret voting for the Bill.”

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