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Friday, 25 April 2014

Slow start to voting in Cumbria police commissioner election

Polling stations have reported a very slow start to voting in Cumbria’s first police and crime commissioner election.

Commissioners are being elected across England and Wales today to replace police authorities.

They will have powers to hire and fire chief constables, and to set policing priorities and force budgets.

Four candidates are vying for the post in Cumbria.

Conservative Richard Rhodes is the favourite, if only because the Conservatives usually amass more votes across the county than the other parties at general and county council elections.

His challengers are Patrick Leonard for Labour, Liberal Democrat Pru Jupe and an Independent, Mary Robinson, who argues that the post should not be held by a party politician.

Only a trickle of electors had voted when the News & Star went to press this morning.

Polling stations close at 10pm. Politicians are braced for a low turnout.

In Copeland, of the six polling stations visited by the News & Star by 8am, only eight votes were recorded with staff predicting a low turnout for the rest of the day.

Hensingham Library was the busiest with five votes cast.

Professor Mike Tonge, head of the University of Cumbria’s Institute of Policing and Partnerships, believes that lack of publicity about the election means the figure will be below 20 per cent.

Those who do vote must grapple with a new system.

Ballot papers have two columns, allowing voters to express a first and second choice.

If no candidate gets more than half the first preferences, the bottom two are eliminated and their second preferences reallocated to decide the winner.

The Conservatives, in particular, have wheeled in the big guns in support of their man.

Prime Minister David Cameron visited Carlisle last Friday and Home Secretary Theresa May came to the county twice during the campaign.

Votes will be counted in Kendal tomorrow. The result is expected during the afternoon.

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