Wednesday, 4 May 2011
I blogged yesterday about the importance of voting, and the excitement we should all feel about an election. And for me today the excitement grew. Having undertaken my training as a stand by, today it was confirmed that tomorrow I get to be a Polling Station Inspector. Yay! It will be the first time I've had a formal role in an election and I'm thrilled.
I've had a bit part in the last 2 major elections - 2007 as candidate liaison at the count, with the unenviable task of trying to explain the electronic counting system; and last year just helping out at the count - my main responsibility was acting as runner for the counters and sealing up the unused ballot envelopes. There's such an adrenaline rush being involved, and since you know my views on our rights and responsibility in relation to voting, you'll realise I see this as a real perk of the job.
Thinking back, my first real experience of elections was in 1974 when the then Conservative (?) government had the audacity to call one of the year's 2 elections on my birthday in February. I can remember asking my Mum what she voted, and being told in no uncertain terms that you didn't ask that question. What a person votes is personal and private to them. This is emphasised in the guidance and training for my current role. The primary purpose and responsibility of polling station staff is to ensure people are able to vote, and to do so in secret and with utmost privacy.
After my inaugural - and not particularly promising - brush with democracy, my interest remained piqued. I can remember Thatcher being elected PM in 1979 - more because she was the first (and still, only) woman than because of her politics. Then in High School I developed a deep and abiding interest in politics as a whole (thanks Mr Walker, my fab Modern Studies teacher) - and it's stayed with me ever since.
As a student I got the chance to be involved personally - staffing a polling station at one election, running the campaign for a student candidate at another, and even standing for election myself. I was spared canvassing, however, as no-one stood against me (in either of the positions I stood for) and I was therefore returned unopposed. I loved the counts most of all - all the glitz, glamour and excitement.
And now I get to do it for real as part of my job. Sometimes there really are perks!
Tomorrow's going to be busy - with an early start. My inspection route is out in the rural part of our area and I need to be at my first station when polls open at 7 am, 2 visits during the day to each station and then I'll not be able to resist heading on to the first part of the count tomorrow evening. We're doing a Friday count but that still means there's ballot box receipt and ballot paper reconciliation to be completed tomorrow, so it will probably be Friday before my day ends. And then up early again the next day for the count proper. And since we're counting on Friday rather than overnight on Thursday, if the election result is as close as some of the polls suggest it might be, we could be in the eye of the storm as regards overall results.
As I said, excitement grows!!