Candidate says 7,000 rejected ballots shows PCC voting system flawed

Green city councillor Martin Schmierer. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Martin Schmierer was the Green candidate in the 2021 Norfolk police and crime commissioner elections. - Credit: SIMON FINLAY

More than 7,000 ballot papers in the election to find a new Norfolk police and crime commissioner were rejected - and one of the candidates said it highlights confusion over the voting process.

Green candidate Martin Schmierer believes the number of rejected papers was due to the voting process not being clear.

Police and crime commissioners (PCC), who hold the force and the chief constable to account, are elected using the supplementary vote system.

People make a first and second choice and, if no candidate gets more than 50pc of the first choice votes, all except the top two candidates are eliminated.

If people's first choice candidate is eliminated and their second choice is for one of the top two, then the second choice is counted.

So, in Saturday's PCC election, Conservative Giles Orpen-Smellie was elected after he received 119,994 votes to Labour's Michael Rosen's 69,552 in the second round of voting.

Norfolk's new police and crime commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie 

Norfolk's new police and crime commissioner, Giles Orpen-Smellie - Credit: Archant

The first round's figures were Mr Orpen-Smellie 103,980, Mr Rosen 51,056, John Crofts (Lib Dem) 31,666, Mr Schmierer 23, 469 and David Moreland (Ind) 20,473.

But, with 7,005 ballot papers rejected in the first round, Mr Schmierer said it suggested voters did not all understand the process.

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More than 3,600 papers were rejected because people had not marked a first preference at all, while 1,748 were dismissed because voters marked more than one candidate as their first choice.

A further 1,620 were declared void due to uncertainty by counters as to who the first preference vote was meant to be for.

Mr Schmierer said: "Seeing the number of ballots that had been rejected, it was clear that something had gone wrong with the system."

He said some might have deliberately spoiled their ballot in protest, but added: "It was also clear that thousands of people had put two first preference votes, which invalidated their choice entirely."

Government websites and ballot papers explain how voting is meant to work, but Mr Schmierer said it had not been effectively explained.

He added: "I would prefer it if we introduced a fairer voting system at all levels of government - one that is based on proportional representation for both local elections and general elections."