Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: What if We Held an Election and Nobody Came?

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  • Graeme Edgeler,

    Partner picks me up. “Do you want to hear the bad news?”

    “Do you mean, ’Do I want to hear the bad news first?’”

    “Um. No.”

    “Fuck.”

    There was good news! MMP!!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Graeme Edgeler,

    There was good news! MMP!!

    Except I knew perfectly well nobody had counted the referendum votes. No-one's counted the referendum votes, people.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    the signs behind us, that say which electorate we’re issuing votes for, are invisible. As are the signs on, and behind, the ballot boxes. This happens, over and over again:

    Me: …and when you’re done, the papers go…

    Voter: *walks away*

    Me: IN THE PORT HILLS… fuck.

    Voter: *comes out of the booth, walks past the Port Hills boxes, shoves votes in the Chch East boxes*

    This. So. Many. Times.

    Also, the number of purple referendum papers put into orange boxes....wow.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Graeme Edgeler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    No-one’s counted the referendum votes, people.

    They've counted yours!

    Wellington, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 3012 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    Devise several frighteningly feasible ways to carry out small-scale voter fraud.

    I worked on a couple of elections in the '90s and this was also something I did when there were quiet moments. Easiest way: if you knew for sure that someone wasn't going to vote, you could basically just rock up to a polling booth and vote in their name.

    Favourite moment from my polling booth days: an old lady who showed up at 7am to vote and was very cross when told the booth didn't open until 9am. It had, she insisted, always been open at 7 in previous years.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1878 posts Report Reply

  • slarty,

    Thank you. I mean it. My mum always did it, and seriously they struggled to get people to turn up to make it work some years (mainly when Thatcher was at her height...)

    The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter

    But equally:

    It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

    And of course in this situation:

    Everyone has his day and some days last longer than others.

    Unreliable source

    Since Nov 2006 • 290 posts Report Reply

  • Carol Stewart, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    A friend in Christchurch was telling me yesterday that her (Australian) mother, who had been involved in state level politics herself in her younger days, insisted in casting her final vote in person, at a polling booth, despite being not just hospitalised but dependent on various life support systems. So they wheeled the whole setup through the hospital to the on-site polling booth.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2008 • 665 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Arse Vote Card

    Voting for arse - that might increase turnout!

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to James Butler,

    Arse Vote Card

    Hence the popular phrase "playing the arse card".

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 19116 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    I worked on a couple of elections in the '90s and this was also something I did when there were quiet moments. Easiest way: if you knew for sure that someone wasn't going to vote, you could basically just rock up to a polling booth and vote in their name.

    You would both get on well with my partner, who has a bad habit of, for example, speculating aloud - quietly, to be fair, but still aloud - while waiting in line in banks on how he'd stage a robbery. In retrospect I'm kind of glad we went through US Customs separately.

    (Of course it's not like I participate or anything.)

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2093 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Easiest way: if you knew for sure that someone wasn't going to vote, you could basically just rock up to a polling booth and vote in their name.

    Easiest way for mild scale: rock along to the student villages the day the EasyVote cards are posted out.

    This. So. Many. Times.

    A friend of mine swore blind to me that her polling booth - in Ilam, but a block from the border with Wigram - only did votes for Ilam, because all the signs on the tables said "Ordinary Votes". It seems people can see those, the little folded signs on the tables, but not the signage behind the tables. And while I've enjoyed my bitch, surely when that's happening you change the signage, you don't expect all the voters to change their behaviour.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lucy Stewart,

    speculating aloud - quietly, to be fair, but still aloud - while waiting in line in banks on how he'd stage a robbery

    My friend who works for the Ministry of [Redacted] and I were once asked to leave a bank because we were standing in the middle of it, while waiting for a friend, pointing at security cameras and obviously plotting.

    despite being not just hospitalised but dependent on various life support systems. So they wheeled the whole setup through the hospital to the on-site polling booth.

    That's kind of awesome. We did have one woman come in, obviously near tears, wanting to cast a vote for her husband, who was in hospital basically dying. Telling her she couldn't was heart-breaking. So of course we gave her a takeaway vote - she took the papers out of the booth, and then later on brought them back filled in. That's completely different...

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to James Butler,

    Voting for arse - that might increase turnout!

    At one point, while I was on my break, I texted Megan and said, "Have to stop perving at voters. Stupid hot voters."

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler,

    Where I was scrutineering we had mostly Mt Roskill tables, but the end two could do Epsom and Mount Albert as well - and there was a nice man at the door whose job it was to ask people's electorates and point them to the next empty seat at the correct table. Not foolproof, but it did save some hassle.

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    The boxes at our booth were rearranged within the first hour, which led to far fewer mistakes. We also had someone on the door directing people to the correct table. It was an interesting study in human behaviour really. I should point out that I was there scrutineering, so had plenty of time to people watch (while feeling distinctly illicit with my rosette on).

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • James Butler, in reply to Emma Hart,

    So of course we gave her a takeaway vote – she took the papers out of the booth, and then later on brought them back filled in. That’s completely different…

    Tricky. Our polling place manager was getting extremely flustered when the sausage sizzle outside kept setting off the smoke alarms inside the building - because no-one is allowed to take a ballot out of the building, evacuation was going to be tricky when people were in the middle of voting. Luckily none of the alarms lasted long enough to come to that.

    Also, a friend of mine - who always takes the trouble to enroll to vote, come to the booth in the morning and pick up his ballots just so he can deface them before putting them in the boxes - was asking me what I thought would happen if he ate his ballot while in the booth. I pointed out that as he wasn't allowed to take the ballot out of the polling place, it could turn into a very long day for everyone involved...

    Auckland • Since Jan 2009 • 801 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart, in reply to Lara,

    The boxes at our booth were rearranged within the first hour, which led to far fewer mistakes. We also had someone on the door directing people to the correct table.

    Yes, we had an information officer at the door, which mitigated this but didn't stop it. My second most frequently used phrase all day was, "You're Christchurch Central, you want the two tables down the end." And after about... two hours? I suggested the PPM move the Port Hills boxes so they were closest to the voting booths, because the most common problem was people coming out and just using the closest boxes, which at that stage were Chch East. That helped, but again, didn't stop it.

    was asking me what I thought would happen if he ate his ballot while in the booth

    That, also, kind of awesome.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4378 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    you don't expect all the voters to change their behaviour

    I love it when people tell me that instead of inventing a whole new technological paradigm we should just change people's behavior. To which my response is "you go try that and we'll see who is more successful"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3458 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Emma Hart,

    pointing at security cameras and obviously plotting

    Did you say "blah blah blah nuclear bomb"

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 3458 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to Lara,

    I was thinking that was bound to happen.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4501 posts Report Reply

  • Lara,

    if he ate his ballot while in the booth

    Heh.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2009 • 81 posts Report Reply

  • Megan Wegan, in reply to Emma Hart,

    My friend who works for the Ministry of [Redacted] and I were once asked to leave a bank because we were standing in the middle of it, while waiting for a friend, pointing at security cameras and obviously plotting.

    I have real trouble not doing that at airports. A check-in person once very sternly told me "We don't find those kinds of jokes funny."

    I can also tell you that Australian customs staff do not find jokes about apples amusing.

    Welly • Since Jul 2008 • 1273 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    I've never, ever, had the slightest wait in polling. It seems massively overstaffed, not that I'm complaining, I certainly don't want to wait.

    I always try to make it worth the time of the bored people there by asking a few silly questions that I could surely work out myself in seconds.

    "Where do I post it?"
    "Over there, the boxes on the left, with Mt Albert written in big letters on the front of them"
    "Oh, who are the boxes on the right for?"
    "People in New Lynn, like it says in big letters on the front of the box"
    "You mean this station is for BOTH electorates?"
    "Yes, we're right on the border"
    "Where is the border?"
    <pause, eyes light up a little>
    "Well, the boundaries aren't straight lines. We are technically in New Lynn here"
    "Yes, that's quite weird, isn't it, my house is way closer than Lynnmall, but I'm in Mt Albert"
    "Rosebank Peninsular, eh? That's the weirdest kink in the Mt Albert Electorate of all"
    "You guys have to keep this up until 7? Long day! Been busy so far?"
    "Nah. You're rush hour. And we don't stop at 7. That's just when we shut the doors"
    "Oh, of course, I guess it's not much use if you don't count them"
    "Not much"
    "Well, cheers, I better go vote. You're not missing much outside, it's windy and cold out there"
    <several scrutineer eyes dart towards me>
    "Heh, best not mention the weather, today is SERIOUS!"
    <vote>
    <accidentally wander behind all other voters>
    <mischievous thought occurs, and I wander hesitantly toward the New Lynn boxes and reach slowly out, look back at the woman, who is watching me with crossed arms. I make a few jabbing motions at the box until she cracks a smile, then turn and post in the Mt Albert boxes>
    <stick "I've voted" on, walk to the door - the sticker blows straight off my chest and sticks to the door>
    <civic duty discharged>
    <1 minute later, the afterglow fades. I want to vote again, that shit is just too weak>
    <I settle for coffee instead>

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8737 posts Report Reply

  • Ian MacKay,

    I reckon that I must be the only person to knowingly process a vote for a dead person. I knew well the 94 year old woman who came into the booth, voted then came back to the table to ask for a ballot for her husband who had died 6 months previously. I started to explain but then gave her a Special vote. She was happy.

    But of course I put her ballot into the informal vote envelope and I marked it as invalid with an explanation and waited for the police to come for me.
    They didn't but the little old lady died happy a year later.

    Bleheim • Since Nov 2006 • 498 posts Report Reply

  • merc,

    When you're travelling with a surfboard you don't make jokes about anything, anywhere, anytime, least of all to retired Marines who are minding the customs counter during thanksgiving, or when flying through the U.S. while they are mobilising (they use commercial airlines) for war.

    Since Dec 2006 • 2471 posts Report Reply

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