A Birmingham polling station was visited by just six people in 15 hours as voters turned their back on the police and crime commissioner elections, official figures have revealed.
The polling station at Birmingham City University in Franchise Street was the worst attended of the city’s 442 during the November 15 election.
A further two polling stations, both at the Birmingham Science Park in Holt Street, next to Aston University, respectively were visited by eight and ten voters – suggesting that students were simply not engaged in the police poll.
The turnouts of 0.5 to 0.7 per cent were the poorest in the city, which saw a 12.8 per cent vote overall – the lowest turnout in election history.
A total of 138 polling stations, almost a third of the total, had fewer than 100 voters on the day, with turnouts of between four and seven per cent.
The breakdown by polling station was issued by the council’s election office and showed that while voting was very much down across the board, it was especially low, below 10 per cent, in suburbs such as Shard End, Kingstanding, Castle Vale and Longbridge as well as the inner city areas of Ladywood, Handsworth and Lozells.
These are usually areas of low turnout at local elections. But the poor show at campus polling stations is perhaps a sign that students are often not linked to the locality in which they study and that many arriving in September for courses may not appear on the electoral register which is updated in August.
With polling stations overseen by at least two members of staff all day and many schools having to close for teacher training for the poll has proved a very costly way of collecting a handful of votes.
The Electoral Commission has criticised the Government over the handling and timing of the elections and is set to issue a report.
Chairwoman Jenny Watson said: “The Government took a number of decisions about how to run these elections that we did not agree with. But what is important now is that the right lessons are learnt: we will talk to voters, candidates and Returning Officers to understand what worked and what didn’t. The Commission is going to undertake a thorough review, and we will present our findings to Parliament in early 2013.”
The autumn timing of the election has been blamed, but Chris Game, local government lecturer from the University of Birmingham, said that before The Second World War, winter votes were common for Birmingham council elections and turnouts were not massively effected.