The government has done an "abysmal" job in making the public aware of next month's elections for police and crime commissioners (PCCs), shadow policing minister David Hanson has said.
Opening an opposition-led debate on 24 October 2012, Mr Hanson said: "We are three weeks away from elections few people know about and even fewer people understand."
He urged MPs to support Labour's motion drawing attention to campaign group the Electoral Reform Society's warning that the PCC elections "threaten to result in the lowest turnout of any nationwide election in British history".
A recent survey of public attitudes to PCCs found that "90% of people questioned had no idea what this role would entail", the Labour MP said.
He also claimed the cost of the polls would hit £100m.
Mr Hanson said: "This is a shambles, it's a shambles costing money and it's a shambles which could have been avoided by choosing a different election date."
But Policing Minister Damian Green told MPs that, whatever the turnout in next month's elections, the new PCCs would have more legitimacy than existing unelected police authorities.
Only 7% of the public even knew about police authorities, he claimed.
The move to elected police commissioners was "the most significant democratic reform of policing ever", he argued.
"It will introduce greater transparency and accountability to a service of which we are all rightly proud but which sometimes can be too distant from the public it serves and can fail adequately to reflect their concerns and priorities."
At the end of the debate, MPs voted against Labour's motion by 287 votes to 218, a government majority of 69.