Somehow on Thursday it will have been two weeks since I did my day’s Poll Clerking duty. I cannot believe how quickly days are slipping away. In many ways it was a lovely day, a day to step outside of ordinary routine, and as I have remarked upon in the past, as you sit there with your ruler and pencil and copy of the electoral role in a little church hall, you really do feel connected to all the people going back generations who have done this before. Technology has moved on in so many ways, but when it comes to voting, nothing changes, which I like. I can imagine in the future text voting or on-line voting, but I hope that is a long way off.
Although, having said that, perhaps more people would vote if it was to be done using modern technology, as they might perceive it as being easier to vote. Not that it is hard at all, but I am surprised so much by how little people know about voting. We had a very low turnout – 10% exactly for my polling station and not much more than that nationally. Ok, we were not electing a new Prime Minister, but there were some candidates for the Police and Crime Commissioner post who hold what I think are really quite dangerous views. The thing is that minority parties like that tend to have a very active and mobile voting support base, and the danger is if that if everyone does nothing, then people who hold views we may find abhorrent could be legitimately elected into power.
I have had some conversations with friends, colleagues and acquaintances about why they didn’t vote, as I am curious, genuinely, why when women died to give us the vote, they would not use their vote. Why in some countries people die for the fight for democracy, why you wouldn’t vote. And I came to the conclusion that people just do not know enough about voting in this country. I don’t know whose ‘fault’ that is, but I do know that if we want to see the fabulous turn outs and voting as in America, then we need to change something.
I heard a lot of ‘but I didn’t have time’. Polling stations are open from 7:00am in the morning until 10:00pm at night, so there is plenty of time to try and fit it into your day. If you are really busy, and it does happen, then you can register for a postal vote, and simply pop the form into the post.
Some people told me that they had not voted as they had lost their polling cards. I can understand that to some extent, but the polling card does have it printed on it that you do not need it to vote; it tells you your polling station and your voter number, but all you really need to know is where you have to vote and on what day.
The saddest thing I heard was too many people telling me they didn’t vote because ‘they didn’t know anything about it’. Not that they didn’t know the election was happening, but they had not received printed information through their door about the election and the candidates. Now I can’t help but think this would have been useful, but at the same time, so many of us have access to the internet. We do not have printed information put through our doors about the train times, but most of us manage to catch one. We do not have printed information put through our doors with the film times, but we manage to get to the cinema and see the film we want to.
Having said all that, I realise that we all have a lot going on in our lives, that sometimes it just isn’t possible to vote. The train that gets in late, the family member who goes into hospital, the day that just goes awry. But we had several frail elderly ladies who turned out despite having hideous heavy colds, because they wanted to exercise their right to vote. I felt proud of them, and proud to be part of the process.
When you are a poll clerk, you have to be at the station for 6:30am to help set it up ready for opening at 7:00am. You do not leave until just after 10:00pm when the station closes, having helped put things away. It is a long day, and there is something rather nice about planning ahead, packing a little basket with things to do when it gets quiet, another basket with food and plenty of tea things for the day. A day so outside of normal routine. And with such a small turnout, it gave me plenty of time to think about Christmas, think about things I want to do next year. Just time to pause, and think, and feel connected to so many generations who have gone before.
If you do one thing as you sip your morning cup of tea today, please decide that next time there is an election, you will vote, if you possibly can.
Love Mimi xxx