Election officials in the UK have promised to mail information to every household in England and Wales about upcoming Police and Crime Commissioner elections, after an outcry over plans to publish information only on the Internet.
Highlighting the ability of the physical mail channel to reach every single address, the Electoral Commission has said it is now working with the government’s Home Office to ensure voters are sufficiently informed about the elections this November.
The UK government brought in new legislation last year to introduce the democratic process to the leadership of 41 of 43 police forces in England and Wales.
But ministers had planned to publish information about the elections on 15th November only on a website, allowing hardcopy information to be sent out only by request.
Earlier this week, candidates for the elections demanded a state-funded mailshot to let people know about the November poll, concerned that not everyone in the UK has access to the Internet.
Ann Barnes, a candidate for the Kent police commissioner position, handed in a petition to Number 10 Downing Street on Tuesday calling for the mail campaign.
Peter Wardle, the chief executive of elections regulator the Electoral Commission, said his organisation had originally recommended to the government that a booklet be mailed to households, but ministers had decided against the approach.
He said: “We are now working with the Home Office to make sure voters have the information they need to take part in the November elections. We will send out a booklet to every household so that people know about the elections and how to cast their vote.”
The Association of Police and Crime Commissioners said the public receive free information already for Parliamentary, Mayoral and European elections, and that elections for police and crime commissioners should be no different.
“Whilst public funding for elections may not be popular a relatively small sum of state support could increase public awareness of all potential candidates and what they stand for, and help strengthen the links between the public and the police,” said the Association’s transition board chairman, Simon Duckworth.
“A free mailshot could help make these elections the success that the public deserve them to be – we urge the government to think again.”
UK-based document processing and mailing company CFH Total Document Management Ltd said candidates for elections looking for low-cost alternatives for mailing campaigns could make use of hybrid mail services.
CFH’s Docmail print-and-post service allows customers to send electronic information by email to the company, which then converts the electronic message into a physical mailpiece for final delivery, with prices starting at “far less than the cost of a second class stamp”.
Commenting on the call by election candidates for a state-funded mailshot, Dave Broadway, the CFH managing director, said: “Physical mail remains an important means of getting your message out to all voters – but it doesn’t have to be expensive.”
“By using Docmail’s print and post service, Ann and all candidates could send out their manifesto to the electorate at a fraction of the cost of traditional mail services.”
Source: Post&Parcel/Electoral Commission/APCC