From those wanting to fully understand a situation you will often hear them say, “I wish I were a fly on the wall”. Such a fly on the wall of a Polling Booth gets to see and hear many things. It watches and listens as the voting day unfolds.
It hears the occasional voter’s cynical remarks about politicians in general and wonders whether the one making the comments would be prepared to put in the long, sometimes frustrating, hours working for constituents.
The fly also scratches its head along with some of the voters who have paid little or no attention to the media in the weeks leading up to the election. As these people walk through the door of the Polling Booth, with a number of How-To-Vote sheets in their hand, some still have no idea for whom they are going to vote.
They line up at the table where their surname fits the initials displayed and they ensure the mandatory mark has been made beside their name on the voter’s register. Armed with an official ballot paper, they make their way, still somewhat bewildered, to the enclosure that contains the sharpened pencil and the screwed-up remnants of the previous occupant’s ‘How to vote sheets’. They mark their ballot paper.
From the wall, the fly sees the crippled and the sick making extreme sacrifices to come to the polling booth, determined to cast their vote. It sees young people, a little unsure of the system, voting for the first time. It sees the concern on the faces of those, who do not have their name on the roll, because they failed to notify their change of address to the Electoral Commission when they moved into the area last year.
The fly can’t help but hear the angry voters claiming they are being forced by law to vote. These people plainly let the booth officials and everyone around them know they plan to cast an informal vote. They proclaim they only came to save paying the fine.
Later in the evening when the booth has closed and the ballot papers are being counted, the fly wonders which of the informal papers belong to the angry voters. Are they the ballot papers with scribble all over them, or the ones with unsavoury words and comments. Maybe they are the ones where the voters add extra candidates whose names have been taken from comics or TV shows. The fly wonders whether these people really appreciate living in a country with a democracy.
As the count proceeds, the fly watches as scrutineers hover, waiting to get an early indication of how their candidate has polled. On these faithful representatives it sees looks of anguish on some of their faces and elation on others as ballot papers are sorted into piles for each candidate. Some of these people will be celebrating late into the night, while others will be licking their wounds, wondering where they failed.
The scrutineers mumble among themselves about the benefits and pitfalls of the preferential voting system. They take notes and whisper into their mobile phones to officials at their party headquarters.
The fly buzzes off out of the building before the lights go out. It lands for a feast on a half-eaten sandwich, lying beside a rubbish bin full of ‘How to Vote Sheets’.
Another election is over.
I’m Peter Mack and that’s life.