Public awareness was "staggeringly low" during November's Police and Crime Commissioner elections and millions of voters did not get access to candidate information that was placed online, a highly critical report has warned.
The Electoral Reform Society, which titled its report 'How not to run an election' found that 88 per cent of PCC candidates felt public awareness of the election was low. One candidate even labelled the government's communication strategy "a complete disaster".
Voter awareness was further "depressed" by a "lack of information", the report said. The government had "failed" to listen to warnings from the Electoral Commission about not sending out information on candidates to the public via the post. Instead it chose to place candidate details on a website.
But this official website, which was only visited by 2 million people, went live just three weeks before the election. It was "poorly promoted and did not provide links to candidates' own webpages", the society said.
It also meant there was "no readily available" information for as many as 7 million people in England and Wales outside of London who did not have regular access to the internet.
Voters were given the option of phoning a helpline number to request candidate information in a booklet. But the Electoral Reform Society said this only went live 23 days before the election, adding that it had only been phoned by 200,000 people.
Many of the candidates who phoned to request the booklet told the society that they had still not received the information after the election was over.
Improving information to voters was a priority for improving the election, candidates told the society without being prompted.
The government had said a £30m mailshot was "not a justifiable expense" in the current climate. But one candidate told the society: "There is no excuse for the government to have failed to fund a freepost mailing".
Other problems were also identified in the report – read the wider Publicservice.co.uk story.