IT should have been the chance for Hampshire residents to have a real say over how their communities are policed.
But instead the process of electing a Police and Crime Commissioner for the county has been branded “a shambles” and a “bad day for democracy” – and that comes from the people who were vying for the job.
The results of the vote were due to be announced today in Southampton when the candidates will find out who will command a salary of £85,000 and oversee a budget of £305m.
But they will face immediate criticism over the strength of their mandate, after figures indicated that just 15 per cent of people in Southampton bothered to vote.
Labour candidate Cllr Jacqui Rayment spent the day touring polling stations in Southampton and said the turnout was worse than expected.
She said: “I have complained to the Home Office about how many people in Hampshire did not receive the booklet of information about the election, but here we are now on polling day and that information hasn’t even been posted.
I think the way the election has been handled has given democracy a bad name.”
During a visit to a polling station in Romsey, UKIP representative Stephen West described it as “the same old story” as disillusioned voters blamed a lack of information. “This is looking like a shambles,” he said.
Mr West later tweeted how a visit to Totton had seen only a 3.5 per cent turnout by mid afternoon.
Liberal Democrat candidate David Goodall agreed a lack of publicity was to blame but said any mandate would have to be earned by the winner.
The Electoral Commission was last night predicting the turnout would be the worst in British election history.
A lack of publicity, combined with a change of voting system and the timing was being blamed.
Gerry Stoker, professor of political science at Southampton University, said the lack of voters reflected a general disillusionment with politics and warned the successful candidate would find their position weakened as a result.
He added the timing of the election, outside the normal cycle of May elections, would have also played a part.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Any turnout will confer a better democratic mandate than the current invisible police authorities have.”
Also running for the job are independent candidate Simon Hayes, Conservative Michael Mates and Justice and Anti-Corruption Party candidate Don Gerrard.
A trickle of voters
POLLING stations across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight reported that only a trickle of voters had come through the doors with no one casting their votes at all for hours at a time.
Voters stayed away from the Masonic Hall in Leigh Road, Eastleigh, during the day – with not a single person seen.
Across Southampton voting had been in “fits and starts”.
Staff manning the voting booths said it had been a quiet day, with nothing like the turnout of a General Election.
Pensioner Thomas Herd, 79, said: “I think people are likely just to vote on political parties in the absence of any actual information about the candidates themselves.”
Voting was slow across Winchester and in the New Forest. By mid-morning only 33 people had cast their votes at a Lymington town centre polling station.