Devon and Cornwall gears up to vote on its new £85,000-a-year police commissioner
The massive logistical problems of staging the first ever police and crime commissioner elections in Devon and Cornwall have been made plain for the first time.
Voters in the Westcountry will go to the polls on November 15 to decide who will take the powerful, but controversial new post which will replace the current police authority.
Six people have already publicly indicated they will stand as candidates including a former military commander and two former chairmen of the authority.
The scale of the electoral task, which is being overseen in the two counties by Kevin Lavery, the chief executive of Cornwall Council, has been revealed in a briefing paper.
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In all, there will be 1,375 polling stations across Devon and Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly staffed by approximately 3,849 people.
Counting is having to take place on the Isles of Scilly because low tides will prevent ballot boxes from the five inhabited islands being brought to Cornwall in time.
Mr Lavery said: "The police and crime commissioner will be fundamental to the way that policing in Devon and Cornwall is modernised by making a single individual responsible and accountable for the way that the police service is run, how we reduce crime and, importantly, how its budget is spent.
"The election on November 15 is new in a variety of ways, the time of year could be a real challenge, darker in the mornings and evenings than at normal elections, and with the potential to be extremely cold or wet or both.
"The voting system is also new. Known as the supplementary vote, everyone gets to make a first and second preference choice by marking their ballot paper twice.
"This will be fully explained in an Electoral Commission booklet which is being sent to every household from October 22 and, of course, this will lead to a complex and potentially very long count at Carn Brea on November 16.
"My election team, with the support and assistance of their Devon colleagues, are running the election on behalf of both counties and I have every confidence that their many combined years of experience, coupled with detailed planning and sound project management will deliver an excellent election."
The new commissioner, who will be paid £85,000 a year, will set policing strategy and the budget for the force in Devon and Cornwall. The chief constable will remain in charge of day-to-day policing.
The creation of the office was widely opposed with politicisation of the police service and the £75 million cost of the elections being chief among the concerns.
Repeated warnings have also been issued about the likelihood of a very low turn out at the election.
The Electoral Reform Society said it would be a "complete shambles" and warned fewer than one in five voters could turn out. Labour has warned that the new police chiefs could be returned on a vote as low as 8%.
So far around 1,304,625 people have registered to vote in Devon, Cornwall, and the Isles of Scilly with 204,822 registering for a postal vote.
The Home Office has overall responsibility for the elections which is being held using the supplementary vote system.
If no candidate has 50 per cent of the first preference votes, the two highest ranked candidates go forward to a second round.
In the second round of counting, the ballots indicating a first preference for a candidate that lost the first round are then re-allocated according to the second preference indicated in the ballot paper.
Candidates so far include Tony Hogg, a former commander of RNAS Culdrose in West Cornwall, who is standing for the Conservatives.
Former Detective Chief Inspector Brian Blake was selected by the Liberal Democrats and Plymouth councillor Nicky Williams for Labour.
Lib Dem councillor Brian Greenslade, a former chairman of the authority and once Devon County Council leader, is to stand as an independent.
John Smith, a former Lib Dem councillor on Devon County Council and another former authority chairman, has also put forward his name as an independent, as has former farmer William Morris, from Penzance.
Nominations close at noon on Friday, October 19. The list of candidates will be published the following Tuesday.