A third way of looking at the Merseyside PCC election result

By Stuart Wilks-Heeg on Nov 18, 12 05:31 PM in Merseyside

My previous post on the result of the November 2012 Merseyside Police and Crime Commissioner election included a pie chart showing how the number of registered electors who 'abstained' vastly outnumbered those who took part.

I've now updated this graphic so that it includes an estimate for the total number of eligible, but unregistered, electors in Merseyside. It looks like this:

Mersey PCC pie chart 2.png
Click on the image to view a larger version.

The figure for unregistered electors really is educated guesswork. In the absence of a large-scale house-to-house survey, the number of unregistered electors can only be estimated by comparing the population aged 15 and above in each Merseyside borough (taken from the 2011 Census results) with the number of entries on each borough's register of local government electors from December 2011 (which includes 16 and 17 year olds recorded on the register as 'attainers').

Using this very rough method, I've derived a figure of 136,555 people in Merseyside who would be eligible to vote, but are absent from the registers. This would mean that just under 12% of those eligible are in fact missing from Merseyside's electoral roll. Reassuringly, this figure is consistent with the Electoral Commission's recent research which suggested 13-15% of eligible electors nationally were unregistered a year previously, in December 2010.

The caveats aside, what the revised pie-chart shows us us that there are very probably more eligible but unregistered electors in Merseyside than there are registered electors who cast a ballot last Thursday in the PCC elections.

Given very low turnouts in almost all of last week's PCC elections, the same pattern is almost certainly replicated nationally. The Electoral Commission's estimates suggest that at least 6 million people are missing from the electoral registers in Great Britain. A total of 4.8 million voted in the PCC elections across England and Wales.

If all this is true, it will almost certainly be the first time since a universal franchise was established in Britain that the number of voters in national elections numbered fewer than those absent from the electoral registers. Indeed, it may well be the first time that this has happened in any established democracy ever.

Whatever the excuses for low turnout, and the optimistic claims that it will be higher in the next set of PCC elections in 2016, to have set such as profoundly depressing 'record' for British democracy surely merits serious reflection. That's why I very much welcome the Electoral Commission's decision to undertake a review into why turnout fell to an all-time low in November 2012.


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David Bartlett

David Bartlett

City editor of the Post and Echo covering politics, regeneration, and urban affairs.
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