Polling Day in Moreland

So the election seems to have been called for the Coalition, though to be fair, they’ve been calling it since 10:00 am, which is ridiculous.

I’m not going to speculate on the awfulness of Abbott, and it’s too early to get into any really interesting conversations about the Senate.  Instead, I thought it might be fun to give you a day in the life of the sort of person who likes to keep herself busy on polling day…

My husband, in fact, is keeping himself even busier this year.  He’s working for the AEC, assisting with pre-polling and postal votes, and this evening, he is one of the people counting votes over in the Gellibrand electorate.

I stuck to Moreland, my home electorate, where I’ve been helping out the Greens, on the grounds that they are my preferred option of the three parties that have a reasonable chance of winning seats in the Lower House (I am, perhaps, being a little optimistic, but it looks like Bandt is going to hold his seat, so I’m clearly not entirely beyond the bounds of sense).

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Politics: Scrutineering, or why I love our electoral system

Here’s the thing about scrutineering. It isn’t just about protecting your party’s votes or recording where the preference flows are going (though this is, of course, what you are appointed to do). It’s also about both observing and protecting the process of counting votes, and, particularly in an election where the results look like being quite depressing, I find it rather comforting to have watched the process and to know that yes, those really are the votes that were cast. For those who care, here’s what happens after they shut the doors at your polling place.

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Politics: Election Day!

Yesterday was the election. Andrew and I handed out How To Vote Cards at our local Primary School from 10am to 1pm (the hazard of being married to me is that you get volunteered for everything. It’s even worse than being a friend of mine – although you do get fed more often, so I suppose it isn’t all bad).  Our friend Patricia was there before us, so we got to catch up with her at handover, and another friend, Loki, turned up to vote and stayed to be social.

I had a lot of fun (since I was sleepy-hyper) doing the big smiley friendly thing and seeing how many people who refused cards from everyone including Andrew, would take cards from me, and stay to chat, or indicate that they would vote Green. It turned out to be quite a few, which is both amusing and disturbing. It shouldn’t be that easy – I know a significant percentage of people actually don’t decide who they are voting for until they are in the polling booth, but I find that quite unfathomable

Handing out how to votes was quite different from last time. Firstly, Coburg turned out to be a two-electorate booth, which made handing out cards something of a headache (because we were supposed to ascertain which electorate people were voting in and give them the right card – and of course, most of them didn’t know). Secondly, I had a lot of people stop and ask me questions about where the Greens had sent their preferences in this seat and elsewhere, and whether voting Green would weaken the Labor party or make Liberal win. So I was very glad to have done my research, which allowed me to explain accurately, honestly and, I hope, persuasively.

And thirdly, I somehow managed to attract the woman handing out cards for Family First, of all parties, who decided at a glance that I looked like someone to be friends with, and acted accordingly. We chatted on and off through quite a lot of the shift, and by the time Andrew and I left, she was hanging out happily with all the lefties inside the gates, while the Liberal man languished outside on the path. After all, we agreed that we were all there for the same reason – we want Victoria to be a better place, we just disagree about which party will give that result. I felt rather sorry for her, actually – she had driven down from Bairnsdale to work at another booth from 7am, and then stayed at ours from 12 until 6 – and very, very few people wanted her cards (or, indeed, voted that way, as I soon discovered). Which is a good thing, really, but what a way to spend your day…

At the end of the day, I went back to do scrutineering. This turned out also to be very different from last time, and not in a good way. We watched them open the boxes, pour out the votes, sort and count them, which is always interesting – but we’d also been asked to tally where everyone’s preferences were going in both the lower house and the upper house, which was an utter nightmare. To make life more fun, one of the officers seemed to object to me – the Labor man could make objections, but whenever I opened my mouth (which wasn’t all that often) she told me I wasn’t supposed to be talking… to do him justice, the Labor man eventually got fed up with this and mildly pointed out that I was also allowed to offer opinions, but it was rather uncomfortable, and made me start wondering whether I had misunderstood my role. Fortunately she left after the lower house was counted.

The upper house count, while taxing, was also fascinating. To my intense amusement, while Liberal and Family First voters vote overwhelmingly above the line, Green voters are basically loose cannons, about one in 5 of whom vote below the line. My fellow Green scrutineer and I agreed that this was something to be proud of. The ALP mostly vote above the line, but had a significant minority below the line. There was definitely a clear trend that the further left-wing the party, the more inclined its voters were to choose their own preferences, thank you. Makes me wonder what the Socialists are like, actually.

And then when we were all done, they discovered that they were missing a significant number of votes. As in, closer to 100 than to 50. So they recounted everything in batches, and that didn’t help. I left at the point when they decided to recount everything again, from scratch, while hunting for any boxes that might not have been emptied – since it was all too probable that they would be there all night.

And then home to watch it all on TV. And to discover that after all this work – it seems that the Greens are doing precisely as well as they did last election – not a percent more or less…

Politics: My first election day as a How To Vote Hander-Outer and Scrutineer

We’ve got Howard back. Worse, we’ve got him with an increased majority in the lower house, and an absolute majority in the senate. We don’t even have the Greens in Senate; due to the preferences of Labor and the Democrats, Family First is getting a seat instead. This is doubly annoying, because the Green vote was almost enough for a seat in their own right, whereas Family First were nowhere near the quota.

I’m not going into how disappointed I am. You can probably all guess this already. I do hope the US manages to get rid of Bush, though, or there is no hope for us.

Now for yesterday. Yesterday turned out to be a very long day indeed. While in the end someone else put up the signs at dawn, I was at the booth from 11:30am to 8:30 pm or thereabouts. I ended up handing out how to vote cards for nearly six hours straight – it would have been four, but one of our relievers didn’t show up, and the other one got a call from his workplace 20 minutes after he arrived and had to leave. So I was back on again. A sensible Catherine might have been less hyperactively manic in the first two hours, but I don’t know any of those…

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