Streets Ahead is the column from London Walks' Pen and Daily Constitutional Special Correspondent David Tucker…
How Brits Vote
Natives know. Well, the 60 percent or so who do vote know.
But for anyone else, here’s a little primer.
A few days before the election you get sent something called a voting card. On it is your name, your address, your number. Every voter has his or her unique number.
And it tells you where your polling station is (if you didn’t know).
You take that card along to the polling station and hand it to one of the clerks seated at a temporary table there. They take your card, clock your name and address, go to their master roll and tick your name off. They keep your voting card.
Everything verified and appropriate boxes ticked they hand you a ballot. And a pencil.
It’s a paper ballot. I find that deeply reassuring. Electronic voting – no paper trail – creeps me out no end.
The candidates’ names are listed, in alphabetical order. (I’ve always wondered, is there any advantage to a candidate whose surname is something like Aaabaced and thus is at the top of the list?)
You go into one of booths, make an X in the box beside your preferred candidate, fold your ballot once and drop it through the slot into the ballot box.
You leave the polling station. Outside there are a couple of people wearing rosettes. One’s a red rosette (for Labour); the other’s a blue rosette (for the Conservatives).
You gravitate to the one of your choice – if you wish, this is optional. And give them your name (or number). They look you up on their “master list” and tick your name off as having voted.
How’s their master list constituted and how did it get put together? The hard slog. Going door to door in the weeks before the campaign and asking the occupants – hopefully – “we’re from hutch and clutch party, do you think you’ll be voting for our candidate?” If you answer “yes” they note you down on their “master roll” as a Labour or Conservative or Lib Dem supporter.
What they’re of course interested in on election day is the names on their list that haven’t been ticked off by, say, 6 pm. At that point the foot soldiers swing into action. They ring the unticked names on list and ask, “have you voted yet, do you need transport to get to the polling station, etc.” It’s the hard slog, voter by voter. The purest form of “getting the vote out.”
And that’s it. Then it’s sit back, hold your breath, wait. Watch the steady drip of hours burble by to polls closing time, presenters and analysts in the studio, an army of reporters and camera crews out at the sharp end.
All pretty ho-hum, that. Pretty predictable.
So let’s not have that as a final note, a final word. Let’s have the final word be Keith Flett’s letter in this morning’s Guardian. Keith Flett, as I’m sure you all know, is a pillar of the Beard Liberation Front pressure group.
His letter reads: “I shall be voting on Thursday in the knowledge that there hasn’t been a prime minister with a beard since Lord Salisbury in 1902, and this is a once in a lifetime chance to get a further one.”
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