Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Democracy in action or Democracy inaction?

I attended my first European count on Sunday. A chance to see democracy in action and, as a member of the volunteer ballot paper police, to keep those vote counters honest...

For most of the evening I had a 'gentleman' from the BNP hovering around behind me standing on his tippy toes trying to look over my shoulder at the paper I was writing on and muttering a question to his mate about what exactly was I tallying up. Probably his first time at a count too. I didn't need a third eye in the back of my head to detect his presence each time he crept up on me, and it was not because such people radiate evil, he simply had that rank odour which always emanates from the habitual drunk - the alcohol was positively oozing from his pores. On reflection, perhaps he was just celebrating early. Fortunately (debatable), with the introduction of the smoking ban in public places there were no naked flames or something tragic might have happened with all that vapour in the air.

Aside from trying to work out the way the percentages were going and trying to stay sober by keeping at a respectable distance from my inebriated stalker, watching the Returning Officer sifting the spoilt ballot papers was probably the most interesting part of an otherwise monotonous evening (for both counters and party faithful alike):

- Most spoilt ballots accused the parties of being on the take and on the make.

- One voter had crossed out all the names and stated that they were voting for Joanna Lumley.

- Another chose to use his ballot to claim £54.32 expenses for a new toy train and assorted items for his model railway set.

- One voter had placed his/her X in the box of their choice and neatly torn out the section with the BNP candidates on it - the ballot was passed (the voter's intention was clear) with one of the invigilators commenting 'Yes, we've heard this sort of thing has been happening all over the country...'

Not nearly quite enough as it turns out.

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