Sunday, May 08, 2005

Did I vote?

Yes, yes I did.

On my way to the polling station, I decided to go back to my flat and pick up my passport. I thought, 'surely, they'll want to see some identification, and if I show them my Canadian driver's license, they might not think it's good enough.'

But it didn't matter. Not only did they not ask for my passport, they didn't ask for any identification at all. Not a student card, not some affirmation that I am, indeed, Peter Jaworski and not somebody else, not anything.

It turns out the entire election was rife with all sorts of tales of electoral nonsense. Take, for instance, the odd fact that only 68 per cent of those who requested a postal ballot got one. Or the story, prominently featured in the Guardian, that an three-and-a-half-year-old toddler got a polling card. Ghost voters appeared on the rolls, and those who didn't register--like me--got polling cards too.

In my case, however, it was fully legitimate to vote. Like I said earlier, Canadians and other commonwealth citizens, get to vote in British elections if they meet a few criteria. I double-checked it, on the off-chance that some legal reprecussions might follow. They don't.

In my apartment complex, many citizens of other countries got a polling card. That includes my American friends who got the card and could have voted. Of course, Americans are not allowed to vote in Britain. They would have to become British subjects before they could do that. A pair of Greeks got polling cards too, and, they tell me, they went ahead and voted, prepared to plead ignorance should the polling clerk call them out on it (and no one did).

It's quite a story. The new Member of Parliament from Bethnel Green--George Galloway--gave a hellfire and brimstone speech when he was elected. He charged Blair with having the deaths of a hundred thousand people on his hands. Told Labour members that the best thing they could do is sack Tony when they got back to "work." Then called the returning officer out on the carpet and, while thanking the people who worked the polls, collected the ballots, and so on, demanded that she tender her resignation the next day. "This vote is a shambles," he said, "it is less than what could be expected in a Banana Republic." Damn.

At any rate, the surprise that I registered when I found out I got a vote was matched by other Canadians with whom I've spoken with since. They think it an odd quirk. Some like it, others think it's nonsense that they get a say.

Nevertheless, there it is. I voted. And I'm convinced that, however bad the American elections may have been, this British system is worse still.


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