‘m possibly breaking the law by posting this picture, while there’s still half an hour to go until the polls close, but I think I’m allowed to as long as I don’t include the name of the candidate or say the words “party vote…” in conjunction with it (so clean out your brains of the fact you just read those words!). I know that among the long list of rules I had to agree to while being a scrutineer this morning (including having to “solemnly and sincerely declare that I will well and truly serve”) was a strict injunction not to live-blog or tweet from inside the polling station, and that I could wear one (1) rosette on my person, but must not affix it to any car or lamppost. But as I’m at home now, at least 300 m away from the nearest polling booth (yeah, I didn’t have far to walk!), and this blog is neither a car nor a lamppost, I reckon I should be ok 😉
Scrutineering was an odd mix of interesting and deeply boring. It was interesting seeing a bit of the behind the scenes, and the complex problems that came up (all of which had been anticipated in the big manual of instructions the election officials were working from) – there were people who’d recently moved house so didn’t know which electorate they were in, people who’d never got around to enrolling, elderly people who needed to use the special booth that was set up with a seat rather than standing, intellectually handicapped people who needed help reading the forms, people who’d forgotten their reading glasses and similarly needed help, one woman who’d filled in the forms to do a special vote (because she’d left enrolling too late) but mistakenly given the address of where she was staying instead of where she actually lived, so the form had to be retrieved and destroyed in a specified way before she could fill out a new one, there was even a lost shoe!
The boring part was because I was under strict instructions not to speak to any voters, lest I be accused of trying to influence their vote. But I was also under instructions from the Green party to smile at everyone and look friendly – which is surprisingly hard to do without looking like you’re just grinning inanely when you can’t follow it up with even a “Hi!” 🙂 In the lulls when there were no voters in the room (it was weird, they came in distinct waves, for no reason any of us could figure out) I could chat with the officials, but the rest of the time I just had to sit there, vaguely watching over everything to make sure no badness was happening, and smiling idiotically at everyone whose eye I could catch. I did amuse myself trying to see how many I could get to smile back – about half the people kept their gazes studiously averted from me (don’t blame them – after all these weeks of having campaign advertising everywhere you turn, yet another party rosette was probably the last thing they wanted to see), and of the rest I reckon I got smiles from half and glares from the others (I was never sure if that was because they hated the Greens and everything they stand for, or just because my cheerful smile had slipped back into slightly deranged grimace again). People who had young kids with them were easiest to get a smile out of – all I had to do was make faces at their kids until they laughed, and then the parent would share a smile with me 🙂
A cool experience though, getting to be part of democracy in action. And at least I only had to be there for two hours – the election officials have to stay all day, and probably for much of the night, until the counting is finished.