Today in Ireland we are voting on our local and European elections. I have just returned, voting done and I cannot but laugh at the whole process. We act like it is all so decocratic, but in reality, my reality anyway, I found it hilarious.
Let me elaborate.
For the past many weeks vans have been travelling the country putting up posters of various men and women. We have become familiar with their faces, and that is only a good thing, because the vast majority of them I have never before heard of. Some I hear have already served us well. Really? I’ll just have to take their word for it. Driving by these posters was a great source of amusement “Look at the state of her”, my children remarked, “I wouldn’t vote for him, he looks evil”. “Oh that’s the fella who has the mad smile”. “Look at that fella, what age do you think he is, ten?”.
As well as the constant laughing and remark passing there was genuine interest at times. However the questions demonstrated how ignorant we were. “See that one there in the red, is she in the local or European elections?”.
So today was the big day. Polling day, and at nine tonight I cast mine.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Irish method of voting, let me elaborate. We receive a voting card in the post and off we go to our local school or community centre to cast our vote. Tonight as I arrived I noted that there were no politicians waiting outside. I went in and there were four different desks at various points in the hall. I go to the one with my number on it and I am handed a long piece of paper with photographs on it and a box beside each. This is where you place your number preference. The lady explains to me as she punches holes in the paper, that this is the local election paper. Then she hands me another very long piece of paper with more photos on it and says this is the European election ballot paper. I thank her and then full of importance I go off to the polling booth.
How can I describe this. It is a stand alone booth with three different shelves hidden from each other. In each is a pen with a string tied to it. This is what we use to write our votes with. So today I went to my booth and picked up my pen. As a child we were taught how privileged we are to be able to vote. We were reminded throughout our school life that at one time Catholics could not vote, and when they could it was not private. The wrong vote meant eviction. In my girls only school we were also reminded of the time women were forbidden to vote, and to always use our vote. With all this in mind I picked up my pen.
I looked at the twenty or so faces on the local election ballot sheet and quickly voted number 1 and two. After that I was stumped. Do you vote for a familiar name? If not who would I vote for? The pretty one, the one with the nice smile, the one who looked professional, or the one who looked a bit different? I stood there and I thought to myself “Democracy my ass”. I had the power to vote for someone even if I knew nothing at all about them. Many say it was up to me to research these politicians, but surely it was up to them to explain to me, why I should vote for them?
I looked at the European ballot box and that was no better. I had heard of a couple of those faces, but knew nothing much about them. Should I use my pen to vote one of them into a position of power?
I had made the effort to turn up, so I did vote. I placed my number one and two next to the faces I knew, and folded my pages up. I went back to the lady who checked me in, and posted my ballot sheets into a large box. Duty done.
All the counties votes will be hand counted from tomorrow. Counting goes on for days and there is no electronics of any sort used. Good old fashioned pen, paper and people are all that’s required.
I will not be waiting with baited breath for the outcome, but at least I did my bit for my country. However looking at the election process, it would seem that democracy as we know it is perhaps not as perfect a system as we like to believe. We have rejected electronic voting machines but with such an emphasis on appearance and beauty in modern society, I question the influence photographs have on our votes.