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The early vote

I’ve seen elections where the voters were bored or apathetic. I’ve seen them looking put-out and inconvenienced. Today was the first Australian election where I’ve seen the voters really looking keen.

We turned up at our nearest polling centre – just up the street – pretty much on the dot at 8am, when the polls opened. There was already a big queue waiting to go in, and all the folks with their how-to-vote pamphlets and slips were still hustling to get into position.

We already had out voting worked out and printed out, courtesy of research, the AEC Web-site and Below The Line. We’d already carefully gone over all of our choices and worked out our preferences, so we didn’t need any of the handouts.

By the time we’d managed to go two metres in the queue, the hander-outers had already moved into position, offering their wares. “No thanks,” we said, “We’re all sorted.”

The one from the Socialist Equality Party turned away scowling. “Yeah. Doesn’t make any difference how you vote anyway,” she opined sullenly, “Nothing changes.”

“Now there’s a positive attitude,” I muttered.

Nevertheless, the voters felt ebullient. I did catch myself wondering if all the how-to-vote material were to vanish one election if most of them might stand around looking more than a little lost.

It took a while to get inside, crawling glacially through the gauntlet of how-to-vote pamphlets, which we literally declined at every step. Most of the other folks in the queue took nearly one of everything, which seems like a waste, but it is done out of politeness or sympathy, perhaps.

Inside, the volunteer officials were energetic. Positively thrumming. It was the start of the day and they were just looking to find their rhythm. One traipsed along the queue calling for absentee voters, like a spring-heeled jack. This was repeated twice more. They’d be doing that all day.

At the polls, near the head of the queue

A small hitch when we were handed our ballot papers. The official at the desk had forgotten to initial them, and this had to be corrected when we noticed. I wonder if the people who had arrived before us had gotten theirs done properly, or if their ballots had become tainted and would not be counted at the end of the day. I was bothered by that thought.

Then the traditional cramming into the cardboard booth and juggling ballot papers and having ideological differences with the official pencil. You know what that fight is like.

Next time, perhaps, it might be nice for the folded cardboard polling booths to actually be wide enough to accommodate the Senate ballot paper, rather than only being roughly a third of the width.

As we leave, a couple different how-to-vote people seem to be on the verge of a shouting match, and perhaps might come to blows, over broad political issues. Nevertheless, we’re in a good mood as are those who are exiting ahead and behind, and the people approaching the polls are cheerful.

This election isn’t a chore for us … for once. Everyone seems to see it as an opportunity. Though few seem to genuinely expect that they will get a result they are actually happy with, that seems to be enough for us for now.

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