Friday, 8 May 2015

Celebrate Democracy

If you have never worked at an election before, I highly recommend it.

There is something almost sacred about it.

One person after another enters the polling station, presents ID, receives a ballot, chooses a representative, and drops their slip of paper into a box. There is no chatter. People often seem lost in thought, absorbed in the seriousness of voting.

The atmosphere is at once respectful and festive, tense and friendly, nervous and hopeful.

On Tuesday I worked as a scrutineer in a largely aboriginal community hours from any major centre. The polling station was in the college. There was a sign telling people to take off their muddy shoes and they did, walking in stocking feet into the room to vote. Old and young, with wheelchairs, canes, and with babes in arms.  In they came, in a steady stream. One by one they cast their ballot and left. I had no idea who they were voting for until the votes were counted.

At a previous federal election, I worked as a poll clerk. New Canadians came in, voting for the first time. Many had never been allowed to vote in their native land and were proud and excited to cast a ballot. One gentlemen almost panicked when he thought his name was not on the elector's list. I wondered where had he come from- what had he witnessed to cause such a reaction?

The vote count itself is conducted with complete transparency. The name of the chosen candidate on each ballot is read out loud, the ballot shown to anyone who wants to look, the totals tallied by poll clerks and scrutineers from each party who check for accuracy. Even though those working the election are from different parties, there is a feeling of teamwork and respect for the end result. Everyone believes in the process. And to anyone who says the results must be rigged, you have not worked a Canadian election.  

A serious business, voting. A grown-up thing to do. Something that makes me proud to be Canadian.