Thursday, 19 March 2015

Voting - the process

Yesterday the voting booths were open for business in Nederland.

The 12 Provincial State elections. All politically motivated - all candidates convinced they have what it takes to rule our country.

It isn't my intention to dive into our political arena, do an analyses or even discuss the politics or the politicians.

In fact, I want to write about the voting process. Or at least my vision and insights as I have experienced them.

A number of years ago my husband suggested I volunteer to take my place at a voting booth as official. These booths are manned by volunteers, some with political history and connections others just out of service to their community. It isn't a glamour job - I do however enjoy the event as the people with whom I share this task make the day ( and night) a pleasant one.

The rewards - yes a small monetary deposit in my account, the pleasure of being of service to others, the fellowship with those I undertake the task and the enjoyment and interaction with the voters who visit our booth.

Maybe the place 'our booth' is in makes a difference to the general atmosphere - the foyer of a church. This church being right at the start ( or end) of the township's shopping centre, De Meent. Also strategically placed between two retirement/ care homes, and at the start of a residential area.

Our voters come from all walks of life - from shoppers, office workers, shop attendants, mums and dads, the elderly and the youth. So a diverse section of the community.

At 6:30 am the lights go on, the necessary supplies and settings are arranged, the voting forms hand counted, registered and laid ready. Lists checked, forms signed, chairs and tables placed, coffee and other refreshments provided. Time out moments scheduled, "Voting booth open" signs placed on sidewalks and at 7:30 open for business.

The first voters are generally office staff on their way to work or mum's and dad's after dropping children at preschool or the like.

Those of us seated at the tables are instructed in our task - we are not to influence the voter in any way or form. We take care to wear clothing that doesn't affect voting preference ( no political party colours), but that does reflect our role as voting staff officials. We greet and receive the voters with respect - ensuring our neutrality when conversations tend to involve choices to be made.

I have been part of a team of 4 for a number of elections now - and see some faces regularly appearing when there is a voting 'moment'. I also note that some faces disappear, realising that not everyone is either interested or able to come vote.

There are characters that leave the same impression all the time, there are cheery voters, disillusioned voters ( they do keep coming back though), optimistic voters, well informed voters, curious voters, first timer voters, knowledgable voters, searching voters, and ho hum- who cares voters.

As an election booth official it is my duty, along with my colleagues, to see to it that everyone and everything runs according to plan. That rules are abided by, that people feel safe and protected in their freedom to vote and that their privacy is guaranteed. So no peeking, no rushing, no influencing and certainly no judgement calls.

It is also our duty to see to it that the process is carried out according to the law of our land. That the counting process in without blemish ( no electronic voting here) and the results are passed on to the rightful authority.

A long and (what could be) stressful day - starting when the birds are awakening and ending when the rest of our world sleeps.

We are fortunate to be able to bring out our vote in a peaceful and free country. I believe that many do not realise the privilege and responsibility this holds. I may not be totally politically informed - I do know:

If I don't vote I can't complain or have my say.

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