Friday, 6 September 2013

Surviving the 'how to vote' card line

This little extract from my novel The Play's the Thing might be of help today:
One of the rituals of Australian elections is dealing with the how-to-vote card. On polling day the voters must run the gauntlet of half a dozen or so party workers handing out the cheap coloured flyers that contain instructions on how to fill out the ballot paper so that preferences are properly directed according to the wishes of each party. The atmosphere around the polling stations is generally cheerful but purposeful; the party workers often look slightly embarrassed, and they spruik in a half-hearted way that ensures that nobody disturbs anyone else.  A gent dressed for an afternoon stroll will say from the corner of his mouth “Vote Green, keep the Libs out.” as if he is in training to sell copy watches.
For the voter there is a dilemma, solved through three different strategies. For the committed 'I've voted XYZ all my life and I don't care who knows' voter, the routine is to approach the line confidently while spying out their party person, and to walk directly up to them without showing any awareness of the existence of the other party persons. Our voter takes the how-to-vote card and the deed is done. For the 'it's my flaming business who I vote for' person, the trick is to pass along the entire line stony faced, taking a paper from each party,  although even this voter might baulk at the most rabid party and decline their how-to-vote card. The 'haven't made my mind up yet' person is in the third category. This voter passes along the line looking nervously between the face of the party official and their paper, taking some and declining others, until they emerge at the end with a random collection of how-to-vote cards. With one of these strategies implemented, the rest is between the voter and the ballot paper inside the cardboard voting booth.

© Stuart Campbell

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