I’ve been counting votes in the Leeds City Council election this morning, and in the lulls between boxes I was looking around the room at the goings on and musing on how strange it all is, once you think about it.
- Rosettes – they’re an odd thing really aren’t they? Adults pinning shiny ribbons folded into pretty shapes onto their chests? But it’s nice to have some colours around the place.
- Election agents - the thing I find bizarre every time is the way they crowd round the tables, staring intently down at you as you start to sort out the papers as they come out the box and endlessly asking which polling station it’s come from. They’re clearly counting, but why? They’re going to find out the result in an hour or few anyway. I was wondering today whether it’s so that they can get an idea of how people are voting in different parts of the ward, but generally they don’t stick around long enough to see the whole box being done, and anyway, they’re only looking at one person’s pile at a time. All they’re getting is a bit of a portion of a polling district in a ward. What does it actually tell them?
- Paper folding – some papers are folded over into quarters, eights, even sixteenths. Why? Even if you fold it in half, no one is going to see where you’ve put your mark between you stepping out of the booth and putting it into the box. This is just my way of saying, please don’t do it. It takes longer to sort them (it’s surprising how much difference there is between opening a half fold and quarter fold) and makes it harder to count (it’s easier to flick through when they’re relatively flat).
- Counting – it would seem that it’s pretty tricky to do something as basic as count. Before the votes are sorted into candidates, they have to be counted to make sure that it tallies with the number of ballot papers that have been issued in the polling station and there hasn’t been any funny business going on. This is by far the most time consuming bit of the process. Either it’s us being unable to count out 50 pieces of paper at a time (though sometimes I would blame the type of paper for making it harder to separate them), or it’s somone in the polling station who can’t count how many papers they’ve used.
- Perseverence – there are some candidates who never come anywhere close to being elected, but still put themselves through it every time there’s an election. Even if you hate their politics, you have to give them credit for fighting for what they believe in.
- Spoilt ballots – each time there are a small number of ballots that are spoilt. Some are no doubt a mistake (e.g. marking too many cadidates), but some are obviously deliberate, such leaving it blank or writing a message on it. Some see these as a waste, but actually I rather appreciate them. Aside from the fact they make the whole thing more interesting (unfortuantely I only had a couple of blank ones today), I still think they’re a valid means of getting their point across. They might not affect the result of the election, but these people have certainly put more effort into their vote than most of us. Especially when they’ve written an essay!
I very much look forward to election time. Not so much for the actually voting, as I don’t exactly have many firm political convictions. But for the count. The people watching, the playing a part in the process, the waiting to find out the various outcomes – the ward you’ve been counting, the ward you live in, and if / how the political make up of the council (or government) has changed. It might seem rather old-fashioned to have people counting them all by hand, but it wouldn’t be half as fun to just wait a few minutes until a machine had done the totting up for you.