Monday, October 27, 2003

How-to-vote cards

Australian democracy is tainted by compulsion – and making this even worse is the dressing-up of this compulsion with bell’n’whistles hoopla. I’m not talking brass bands and spangly outfits; I’m talking how-to-vote cards.

For a start, they’re a fuckin insult to anyone with an IQ above the sub-moronic. Believe it or not, I (and I assume most people) go into the polling place having already made my mind up who I’m voting for. And I also understand preferential voting, so I don’t need any help with filling in the other numbers, either. Seriously, what do those hacks handing out the cards expect – I’m going to go for the leaflet with the prettiest-typography? Or, since the hander-outerer hacks are invariably ugly, ill-dressed nerds, do they think that I might be swayed by their piteous appearance to cast a sympathy vote for their party?

Having the whole voting process happen in the faux jollity of a primary school doesn’t help, either. I’m only there against my will, folks – and the fact that I consider braving this gauntlet of geeks to cast my largely futile* vote to be an economically rational alternative to a $20 (or whatever it is) fine amply indicates that I don’t have money to burn at your sausage sizzle, either – so fuck off times two, you pseudo-charitable hotplate monopolists.

The last straw (as usual) is Andrew Norton, who turns out to be one of the aforementioned hander-outerer hacks. To reiterate – my dislike of these people is entirely non-partisan, although I do tend to think that the Greens, of all people, should be averse to the waste of paper (and don’t parry back that it’s all recycled, blah, blah blah – the issue is that my little voting brain does not take kindly to the regurgitated pulp that’s on the leaflets).

Here’s Handy Andy on the polling day fun and games:

The people who look like they are having not just a bad day but a bad life usually breach polling booth etiquette and neither take all how-to-vote cards nor politely decline those they do not want. They ignore or abuse the Liberal volunteer before taking a Labor or nutter party card.

So “polling booth etiquette” apparently demands that one either take all the proffered how-to-vote cards, or “politely decline” them on an individual basis. Option one is logically only for those who humour and gallantly hang on to each incoming telemarketer’s call until the seller hangs up, and option two is a pretty-overt statement of who one is going to vote for (as well as the extraordinary indulgence of a bunch of geeks, a fawning usually only seen at Christmas day lunch when distant relations are present).

Tellingly, Andrew Norton doesn’t even acknowledge as possible that a voter may choose to “ignore” all how-to-vote cards equally – which is what I do. I don’t know or care if I do so “politely”; all I know is that their presence is both voluntary and gratuitous, while mine is not.

* “Futile” because a vote for a minor party in the lower house (save for extraordinary candidates or situations) ultimately counts for only the major party that is earlier preferenced. If (as is often the case), I cannot conscionably give my vote to either major party, I vote informally.

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