Thursday, 7 May 2015
Voting in the General Election 2015
The deed is done!
I didn't vote, as originally intended, as soon as the Polling Station opened at 7.00am. I waited until 11.15am. I wanted to be part of the main morning 'rush', my village being full of retired oldies who get going from mid-morning. And indeed business was brisk, as you can see in the shot above. There was much more community spirit to be enjoyed, and altogether a better sense of 'occasion' than you get very early on, when the only custom will be bleary-eyed commuters on their way to the station, or keen dog walkers.
I left home at 11.10am, and was back at 11.30am - only twenty minutes of my time taken up on this once-every-five-years citizen's duty. Duty? Well, it was voluntary of course, but I do regard it as a vital part of making this country's political system work - and so in that sense obligatory, and demanding a serious personal effort. Democracy UK-style isn't a perfect thing, but I feel it's terribly important to make it work as well as possible, and in saying this I'm not (I hope) being either excessively naïve, nor cynical. My personal right to vote was hard-won by fearless women less than a century ago; and before that, a series of bitter emancipation battles that gradually secured voting rights for ordinary people against the entrenched interests of a rich and powerful élite. So the right to vote is not to be trivialised nor easily dismissed, and I want use it whenever national issues arise.
Exactly what to wear for my twenty minutes of public duty was a bit of a poser. This time all the colours of the rainbow - red, orange, green, blue, purple anyway - were being used by the political parties, and I did not wish to wear something that would suggest whom I might be favouring. So I decided to be a vision of black and grey, as these shots (hurriedly taken just before I departed) record:
Hmm. Was I off to a funeral? Fortunately this sombreness was relieved by my usual bright orange bag - although it did occur to me that carrying that might set the heart of of the LibDem parliamentary candidate fluttering. I'm pretty sure that she was one of the two ladies that went out their way to say hello to me at the Polling Station entrance. So the bag colour was noticed.
I stopped to take photos outside the Polling Station - our Village Hall - but photography was banned within. So there's nothing of me making a pencil cross on the two ballot papers!
Two? Well, there was a white one for the parliamentary constituency of Arundel and South Downs, and a yellow one for the local Mid Sussex council elections. These were both given to me with nice ceremony after that delicious moment when it was my turn to give my name and address. I didn't just hand the officials my Polling Card. I wasn't going to be bashful. I wanted to announce myself, and confidently say who I was in a clear voice that all could hear.
As you will have gathered from previous posts, and perhaps from my general background and attitude, I was likely to give the Conservative candidate my parliamentary vote, and I duly did so.
But I voted for both the LibDems running for the local council. This done, I still had a third council vote to cast, so I chose one of the Conservative chappies - though not the plonker whose name I actually knew.
This was all accomplished in a new type of intimate voting booth. Four of them clustered closely together around a central column, so that if you looked down on this from above, each voter occupied one-quarter of a circular area, separated of course from his or her neighbours by a dividing wall. That said, we were all just inches away from each other, and you couldn't really stand there long, and let the morning drift. It made you want to get in, do your stuff, and get out, all inside a minute or less. There was a pencil, a clear list of candidates, and a shelf on which to rest one's ballot papers while pondering - if still undecided - where to put those fateful crosses. It was moderately private, but not nearly so much as the old-style booths. It reminded me of four rather open public telephone points around a pillar, as you still see in big railway stations. I suppose the new arrangement made it harder to do inappropriate or illegal things while in the booth.
After that, I was off back home. There was one more pleasant experience. A smartly-dressed man, clearly intent on voting too, was coming towards me on the same pavement, and he stepped off into the road so that we wouldn't bump into each other. We both grinned. I made an especial point of thanking him for his courtesy.