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Don’t rush on polling day

May 5, 2010

polling station, originally uploaded by secretlondon123.

Unless it’s unseasonably and unbearably chilly, we’ll walk to the polling station — in the evening.

It’s a ritual. A pleasure. Always. There’s a warm and fluffy glow about the whole process, as bizarre and ridiculously sentimental as that might sound.

After weeks of campaigning by politicians and endless hours of occassionally desperate interpretation and speculation by journalists, there’s a reassuring feeling which creeps over me on polling day.

A sense of anticipation of the impending closure on the whole affair vies with an unusual sense of pride. This moment is the voter’s. It’s not for the prospective candidate.

For a handful of minutes, each and every candidate is subject to the power of the voter. Some might be confident in their prediction, but noone know absolutely what the result will be.

All of us exist in a delicious no-man’s land. If the sun is shining that makes the day even more of pleasant day’s rest. There is no news to speak of until the results of the count begins dribbling in. It is the voter’s day. I bask in it.

The journey from the front door to the polling booth takes us through our version of suburbia. There are a few trees, considerably more traffic and quite a lot of unfamiliar faces – even now. But it’s home. A heightened sense of well-being descends upon us as we pass the ugly yet familiar architecture. This is our community.

How does that image of the community we pass through square with the image we have in our sub-conscious as a result of the weeks of campaigning and the months of electioneering before it?

As we walk to the polling station this is our moment to make up our minds. Sure, there’s as much time as you need in the booth – but wouldn’t it be better to arrive at that decision beforehand? Polling is a relatively unusual experience. Those of us who are suckers for unusual experiences want to savour the opportunity, after all.

In just a few minutes time we’ll be handed the voting slip from the volunteer sat at the picnic table and be pointed in the direction of the booth.

Once esconced we’ll open our slips and read over the names, making a note of the ones we’ve never heard of with their ever so slightly unusual logos. We’ll keep our surprise to ourselves when we recognise the names of the candidates who stood at the previous election who didn’t introduce themselves during this campaign either.

Then we’ll pick up those stubby pencils, marvel at the soft lead in the middle. We’ll reposition the slip on the bench when we realise the string on the pencil doesn’t stretch quite far enough.

And then, when we’re absolutely ready, carefully place our cross in the box.

At least we should. I’d like to think we all do it that way.

Up and down the country millions of others are going through the same process (assuming they’re not putting a tick in the box and spoiling their ballot). They’re acting on the personal agendas which have accompanied them to the booth. They’re making a secret pact with people they’ll almost certainly never meet, but will still have reasonably high expectations of – especially if something goes wrong.

One delicious moment. One to be savoured.

Walk to the polling station. Take some time. Indulge in the moment.


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  1. I’d savour the moment a lot more if there were considerably more choice involved for me. Let’s see…

    * The Labour incumbent. Has to pay back £40,000 dodgy expenses. Unrepentant.
    * The Tory bimbo. Nice enough lass, no sense of grit about her though.
    * The LibDem, who cares so much I don’t even have a leaflet with his or her name.
    * The BNP, upon whom I would not pass water, were he on fire.

    I don’t want to vote for ANY of them, based on their policies. Nor based on their personalities. Tactical voting is pointless, because the big urban area to the south of my rural neck of the woods will vote back in the party that’s spent millions on its regeneration … and who did nothing at all for us up here.

    Don’t worry, I will vote. But with a very, very heavy heart.

    Savour the moment? I don’t think so, sorry!

  2. The only leaflets I’ve received have been from the BNP – very, very worrying. I’ll be going to vote for ANYONE other than them – but have to agree with Fiona – the choice is not exactly inspiring.

  3. I recognise the romantic polling idyll you are referring to Jon, and used to experience it – but this year I also have quite a heavy heart as I genuinely fear for the country if one particular party wins this election outright or is in charge of a coalition. I surprise myself in this, as I have voted in every election since 1979 and have voted for at least four different parties in elections over the years – I am your proper floating voter. But I am scared. On a positive note, we have received election leaflets from about six parties and two independents!

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