There’s a certain level of “ritual” about voting in a federal election in Australia. As we have compulsory voting in Australia (which I support strongly), you generally need to plan your day around visiting a polling booth. It’s not so hard, really, in a capital city, since there are polling booths at many schools, and there’s the added incentive of a “sausage sizzle” or school fete which makes it a very pleasant experience.
In my own local area, it’s also usually a fairly speedy experience, due to the large number of people living locally who normally live “outside the electorate”. If you’re a “local” you can usually go to the front of the queue.
There’s also the “ritual” of making your way through the “vortex” of people who are handing out “how to vote” material. As I have usually have clear ideas about how I plan to vote – mostly based around who I want to put first and who I want to put last – my normal strategy to is to look forward, politely respond with a “no thankyou” to any direct contact – and make my way through that experience as quickly as responsible.
I broke with my regular “ritual” today by taking an “early mark” from work today. Taking into account I’ll be working a fair bit over the weekend, I thought I’d take some time off. Even then, it wasn’t really much of an “early mark”, since I was still at work until 4.00pm, and I used the time to head into the city for a bit of window browsing and to vote at Sydney’s Town Hall.
The “how to vote” crowd was stil there today, though sadly there was no evidence of a sausage sizzle. Sigh.
The other big change this year was the absence of those large physical paper books containing the electoral roll. Those books where you look down, see your name, and they put a line through the entry as they hand over the voting papers. This year, everyone had a laptop and so you couldn’t see your name. Also you couldn’t see if they were ticking your name off, though presumably the electronic system should lead to a decrease in the number of people who “vote early, and vote often”. The other “electronic innovation” I noticed was how they didn’t have a vast number of different lower house voting papers on hand. Instead, they printed on demand.
The times, they are a changin’…