General Elections: it’s time, it’s Election Day.

Election day is a special event.  No really it is.  It’s the one day in an election cycle when the people of a democratic country get to overthrow the government in a (hopefully) completely peaceful and legal manner.  Or if their government has proven to be effective in its leadership the people have the opportunity to keep a good situation going.  Well anyway the point is that as the citizen of a democratic republic or constitutional monarchy or union of federated states it is the second most important day to be a good, interested and most of all involved citizen.

What’s the most important day?  Well we’ll get to that in the next post.  Patience, is a virtue.

It is every bit as important to prepare to cast your vote as it is to have prepared for the inevitable arrival of those half remembered canvassers at your front door.  So with that in mind here are some important points of information to bear in mind.

First of all no-one can or should tell you how to cast your vote.  It is after all your vote.  That means that just because your parents both vote for a particular party does not mean that you have to.  It also means that no-one has any right to pressure you into voting one way or another.

Next remember that it is a secret ballot and so you can always do that very traditional thing of voting right-wing while claiming to have voted left-wing or vice versa.  After all who will know?  You will be voting alone.  And that is to me one of the most intrinsically beautiful aspects of modern democracy.  Once every few years you are given the chance to make your voice heard and while what you say is utterly private the result of your say will quite literally be heard across the globe.  No-one can say that politics is completely devoid of a poetic soul.  So anyway back with the plot and the point is your vote is secret, nobody will ever know how you voted.

If you’re voting for the first time ask for help.  Actually if you’re voting for your tenth time ask for help.  Yes I am deadly serious about this.  A simply stupendous number of ballots are spoiled in every election.  For example in the 2004 European Elections in the Cork area (Ireland again, sorry non-Irish folks but I am a proud Irish lass after all) somewhere in the region of 20,000 ballots were spoiled out of 500,000 total.  Many of those spoiled ballots are ruined by first time voters who don’t understand what they’re doing.  But more than a few votes were wasted by people who thought that they knew what they’re doing making a mess of things. There are people at every polling station specifically to help you understand what you are about to do.  Or if you would find it too embarrassing to ask in person how about using the internet?  Look up how to go about filling out a ballot in your country.  This link leads to a great basic guide on how to cast your vote in Ireland.

After the long run up to election day you should have a pretty good idea who you want to vote for.  Or worst case you’ll have a really good idea of who you don’t want to vote for.  Either way before you go to the ballot box it’s a good idea to sit with your thoughts  for a few moments and make a firm, informed, final decision.  Then stick with your decision.  If when you get your chance to vote you find yourself wavering for whatever reason just remember that something affected you strongly enough to make you choose to vote that way to begin with.  What ever reason that may have been it’s a reason you found while you sat and though hard on the subject.  So it’s probably a better reason to vote for your original candidate than realising that “yer one standing for (insert name of party) is a bit of a ride and sure wouldn’t it great to watch her on telly”.

In the last election I genuinely heard someone say this while I sat behind them on the bus.  Now in all fairness she was a bit of fox, but that is not a good enough reason to vote for anyone.  You’re voting for a bloody government, not whoever sang some bad rendition of some crappy song on some glorified karaoke contest last night on the television.

So after everything the canvassers, the thinking, the wishing the whole annoying political show would wind up and go away you’ve done your patriotic bit for your nation.  Well done.  Go home and have a beer. You’ve earned it.

But never ever forget that as a citizen your vote is your most precious right.  You pay for it with your taxes.  You pay for it by submitting to the laws of your nation, even the ones you don’t agree with.  So use your right, use your vote and for goodness sake make sure you don’t waste your vote Don’t waste your chance to make a difference by filling out the damned ballot wrong.

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