Wednesday, 12 March 2014

I have just had an irate phone call

from a man who strongly disapproves of my letter to the editor in this morning's paper. 
Quite apart from the fact that it was much too early in the morning to ring someone he did not know he was barely intelligible. He spluttered to get his words out.
I would not have thought what I had to say was that controversial. I had just pointed out that our voting system was not free of fraud. He refused to believe that there was any fraud at all.
For those who live elsewhere I need to explain. In Australia it is compulsory for people eighteen years and over to be on the electoral roll if they are eligible to vote. There are, as you might imagine, all sorts of problems with this.
Some people never bother to enrol. That does not bother me - although it does bother the government. If people don't want to enrol and don't want to vote then they probably should not be voting. Other people enrol and then move out of their electorate and fail to update their enrolment. That is another sort of problem.
The responsibility for the electoral roll lies with the Electoral Commission. Every so often they endeavour to check the accuracy of the roll.
The problems I was talking about in the letter lie there. There are some people on the roll who should not be there. They should not be there because they are not competent to vote.
Some of them would have been competent to vote in the past but they are not competent to vote now. They may have had a stroke or accident which has left them mentally incompetent. They may have Alzheimer's or some other degenerative disorder which means they no longer understand what they are doing.
There are people with mental disorders which leave them out of touch with the world who have no idea how to fill in a ballot paper - although they too may have once been able to do it.
And there are people who should never have been placed on the electoral roll in the first place. They are put on the roll by family or carers in the belief that "they have the right to a vote". They do not understand the process and they may not even understand the concept of "choice" so someone else votes in their place. I have written about this elsewhere.
My letter to the editor was prompted by the need to explain to someone how to take the person they have been caring for off the electoral roll. Yes, there is a form and yes, you do need to fill it out.
At least this person recognises that the person they have been caring for is not competent to vote.
What alarmed me is that this same person was told by more than one person, "You could do it for her. You know how she would want to vote."
And it has made me wonder. Does our system of compulsory attendance at the ballot box actually make people believe that voting is a right? Yes, it is a right - and a responsibility. How many people actually see it that way?
I suspect that, for a great many people, voting is a chore. It is a nuisance to be got out of the way as quickly as possible. They believe there is nothing they can do to change things so they do not even give much thought to what it is they are voting for. They do not know what the policies of the parties are and cannot even name the candidates. They will vote the way they have always voted - which may be the way their father voted.
It is not going to change but to suggest that our electoral system is free of fraud and difficulties is not correct.
And to tell me that it is correct at just after six in the morning is not correct either.


jeanfromcornwall said...

Never mind the issue, when people are as ill-mannered as your early morning caller, I am never sure whether to say: "Your Mother would be ashamed of that behaviour." or "Your Mother should have taught you a few manners"
It harks back to the point you made yesterday - the people who are convinced that they, and they alone, know the rights of the matter.

jeanfromcornwall said...

I should have added - if you know you are right, it saves the effort of having to think.