Wednesday, 29 June 2016

The new voting system for the Senate

is still causing seemingly endless confusion. 
At one level it sounds simple. You now put the numbers from one to at least six "above the line" (a vote for parties) or from one to at least  twelve "below the line" (a vote for individuals). 
The problem is that I have spent multiple elections telling people with some intellectual and learning disabilities to "just put a one next to the group of people you want to win". Right.
So, I  head out to yet another "group" house - a residence for a group of people with disabilities, supposedly an ordinary looking suburban house where they supposedly mix with the rest of the community in an ordinary way. This doesn't happen of course but bear with me...they live there, after a fashion.
There is the usual pile of dirty dishes in the sink and piles of dirty laundry in the living area. At least they are all out of bed this morning. That may be because they know I am coming. 
We sit at the kitchen table and I explain to all of them and then each of them in turn. I help them individually to fill out their practice sheets - the sheets they will take with them so that they can vote the way they choose by copying what we have put there. Their reasons for voting are interesting. One young woman tells me she is voting for a certain candidate "because he looks nice" and another tells me of another candidate "he's too old". They have no idea what the party policies are but they have a vote. We have to respect that.
And then there is the boy who, having slowly and carefully told me what he wants and who is the only one in this group who has any idea why he is voting and what the policies are, says to me in a very worried way, "What if I forget how to write the numbers."
"You can copy them from this page," I tell him. He frowns. He picks up the pencil and attempts to do it. He gets one number - the six - back to front. I tell him it won't matter - and it won't. His  intention is clear.  
I tell him that, at the polling booth, he is allowed to take his time. He sighs. "Should have done it like my Nana". His grandmother had a postal vote. 
I can only agree. Someone else, not me, decided that going to the polling booth would be "an experience" for this particular group. They would have found postal votes easier and less stressful and, managed in a certain way, we might have been able to ensure that their votes did not get used by other people.
I leave their choices on the sheets we have filled out in sealed envelopes on their refrigerator door. Now I have to hope that at least one of their carers will do the right thing on Saturday and give them the envelopes so that they can fill out their own ballot papers or that someone else will follow their instructions. I am far from certain about this but at least I will have tried.
I don't care which way around the last boy - he's only 22 - has written that six though. Those counting will know what he intends and he has actually thought about what he is doing. That counts. 

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