We just had some big elections here in southern Spain. Well, I say big. I mean, typical. Governments in, governments out. Do we really care who’s in charge?
Now, I don’t know what it’s like to vote in other countries, since I’ve only voted in Spain and Canada. And I don’t know whether the process in Canada is normal either.
In Canada, you don’t just sign up to vote whenever you want to. Every four years someone comes around to your door and asks you who in your family is eligible to vote. You probably have to provide some sort of proof that the people you name are eligible to vote, like a passport or birth certificate or something, that proves the person is old enough to vote. I wouldn’t know, my parents always took care of all that.
This is called “Census Day” in Canada, and during the days leading up to this all important date, there are ads in all the media reminding people to stay at home that day so that they can get onto the Census List and receive the right to vote.
I always wondered what happened to people who didn’t or couldn’t stay at home on Census Day and couldn’t get onto the Census List. Did that mean that they couldn’t vote?
And what about people who moved after Census Day, but before the next one four years hence? Did that mean that they couldn’t vote after they moved, until the next Census Day swung around?
But since those were never concerns of mine anyways, I never discovered the answers.
Now, here in Spain, the process is completely different. I like it here more, because it’s much more within your control.
Here in Spain there are Censal Offices. There’s an office in every neighbourhood, town and village. So it doesn’t matter where you live, even if you live way out in the outback or on a farm, you can sign up to the Census List.
People won’t come to your door here. Nope. It’s YOUR responsibility here to go to your nearest Censal Office and sign up for yourself. You should sign up your family members too.
Once you are signed up, your name will automatically be sent to your Poling Station every time there is an election, and you can vote.
It’s as simple as that. Easy peasey.
On the day of the election, all you have to do is wiggle your way down to your Poling Station, well equipped with your ID, of course.
When you get to your Poling Station you will find a few police officers hanging around, usually looking a bit bored, in order to keep order. I live in a quiet neighbourhood, so manning a Poling Station is a rather boring task round here.
Inside the Poling Station you will see a couple of tables with a candidate from each of the main political parties sitting around eyeing each other rather suspiciously. They are there to make sure that there is no monkey business by members of opposing political parties.
It also saves trying to round up volunteers on the street who would be willing to sacrifice a beautiful Sunday hanging around in a Poling Station.
You have to present your ID and when they find your name on their lists, you can vote.
In Canada, the way to vote was, you went into a little private cubicle where you could pick up a sheet of paper. The names of all the candidates and their political parties were printed on the paper, and you had to choose just one. I don’t remember whether you chose your candidate by circling them, or making a tick mark next to them or making an X next to their name. But the point is, you had to read the instructions and make the correct type of marking, or your vote would be invalid.
Then you would slide the paper inside an envelope, which you would then seal and put inside the voting box.
Here in Spain, you also get to go into a private cubicle. But you don’t get a piece of paper with the names of all the candidates. Here, in the private cubicle, you will see piles of flyers in holders on the wall. There is a flyer for every candidate and their political party.
You must choose the one flyer corresponding to the one candidate and political party that you want, and you must slip that one flyer inside an envelope.
Then you seal the envelope, so no one can see which flyer you had chosen, and put the envelope into a voting box.
After that you can leave, pass the bored police officers, and hang out in the nearby bars, where you can observe all the people venting their passions and adrenalin with heated debates about politics.
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