Referendum Day today here in Ireland got me thinking about voting rituals and wondering about what happens in other countries.
The main feature of today’s Referendum, or at least that which has gained the most attention, was whether or not we should abolish the Senate. That’s a very simplistic overview but if you want to read more here is the booklet and link to the information that was delivered to every household in Ireland.
Leaving the subject matter aside, I wondered if I was alone in having been brought up in a family where ‘going to vote’ was a family affair with a touch of ‘the couple that votes together, stays together.’ My parents always went to vote together, even though they could well have been on opposite sides of whatever the election was about. It was a big occasion and something which they took very seriously and they always emphasised the importance of using one’s vote.
The local junior school, which is half way round the block between our house and my late parents’ house remains my polling station. I half expected to bump into them as I went to vote. Ironically, neither of them was eligible to vote in the Senate elections which are confined to certain groups, including university graduates, of which they produced three.
Inside the school, turned Polling Station, there is always a curious combination of memories of early childhood school days and the seriousness of ‘grown up’ matters of State. The kiddies tables and chairs are tidied away and wooden booths are brought out for the occasion to lend privacy.
Here, I think, too, of how voting used to be verrrrrrrrrrrry private and people just didn’t disclose how they voted.
I half wondered today if I would be ex-communicated from voting forever after if it was discovered that I had a camera in my pocket and was taking pics while hidden behind the makeshift booth! Even though Father was mad into photography, he definitely never brought his camera to the voting ritual!
And, yes, the heavy leaded pencil, tied on to the booth with emerald green ribbon is still a feature here in Tramore, anyway. I often wonder if the green is just a co-incidence or has it been consciously selected to give a sense of Irishness.
That pencil and ribbon is something I will sorely miss if electronic voting is ever introduced in Ireland.
I’ll also be devastated if the Senate is abolished as it has yielded some very strong and valuable voices in shaping this country, most notably Mary Robinson and David Norris.
I know there is a whole issue of elitism about the Senate but that was put to rights today when everyone had the opportunity to make their mark. Ideally, everyone should have the right to vote in Senate elections and abolishing it, seems to me, like throwing the creative baby out with the sullied bath water.
So, what are the voting rituals wherever you are? Schools, pencils, ribbons, family affairs, privacy or ……????