Saturday, 31 August 2013

This time next week

it will be Election Day.
The campaigning will be over. The Leaders of the various parties will be filmed putting their voting papers in the ballot boxes.  (And I will wonder what it feels like to see your name on the ballot paper and vote for yourself.) The media will make last minute predictions about individual seats. Exit polls will be conducted.  Carefully chosen members of the public will be interviewed.
Some people seem to think that election is all but over now. All the opinion polls appear to be going in one direction. The respective leaders of the incumbents and the coalition of the opposition are looking less and more confident.
Yes, it probably will go the way the opinion polls and the media are suggesting but I doubt either leader is taking anything for granted. They would not be leaders if they were doing that.
And I wonder what would happen if suddenly we could not vote? How would Australians react?
I had to do a hospital visit yesterday. One of the reasons for going was to assess whether someone who has had a stroke, can no longer speak and will need someone else to mark the ballot paper was still mentally competent to vote.  The person responsible for making the final decision wanted a second opinion. Taking away someone's right to vote is not a decision to be taken lightly.
Next Saturday I will also mark the ballot papers for several people who are not able to mark their own. In most instances this will be easy. They can speak even if they cannot speak clearly. They will be able to tell me what they want. The process will be almost as fast as it is for anyone else. I hope they know what they are doing. In one case I am not sure the person really understands what the election is about but his name has been placed on the electoral roll and he is required to "attend" the ballot box.
And there is one person who wants to vote "below the line" on the Senate paper. I have no doubt at all that he understands what he is doing. He will have thought long and hard about it. He will have read the material. He will have listened to the debates, to the news and the commentary.  He wants to line up in his wheelchair along with everyone else and get his name marked off in the same way. The one concession he will make is that he is, he promises me, coming prepared with the order marked on a piece of paper his brother will have taken down for him.
This man nearly didn't get a vote at all. He can communicate only using his eyes - up, down, left and right. I taught him to read once - and had trouble convincing other people he could read. He reads a great deal. There is not much else he can do. But he has a vote and he is going to use it.
The vast majority of people will go in and mark the ballot paper as their first candidate of choice has told them they should direct their preferences. He is going to do things differently. He is really going to use his vote and it is going to be an enormous pleasure to help him do it.  


Anonymous said...


It would be a pleasure to help him even if he voted against what I wanted!

jeanfromcornwall said...

Cat, I really do appreciate the things you tell us about the political scene in Australia. Today's has told me how different things are when it comes to elections - here it is so much "There it is, take it or leave it" when it comes to having and using the vote.
Here, we have just had the amazing experience of four local MPs who have all just voted against their own party, the government, after saying that they have spoken to as many of their constituents as they could. That fills me with a great surge of optimism! Real democracy!

catdownunder said...

Judy, yes! Whatever he wants it will be a real pleasure to do it.

Jean, yes they do things differently here - but not necessarily for the better. People tend to be very poorly educated about the process.