Sunday, November 22, 2015

Flag Referendum 1: The ballot has arrived

Our voting papers for the first flag referendum have arrived. I’ll be voting, of course—I always vote. I’ll also vote in the second referendum next year, of course—I always vote. How I’ll vote, however, is something I don’t yet know for sure.

In this first referendum, we rank our preferred flags one to five, with one being the flag we like the best. Because this is by PV (Preferential Voting), we can’t hurt our first choice by ranking the others.

Even so, some people have made decisions to not rank all the flags. That’s legitimate if someone dislikes one or more equally, but as long as a voter marks at least one flag with the number one, their ballot is valid.

Which brings me to the anti-referendum types, at least some of whom plan on spoiling their ballot in any one of numerous ways as a protest. That’s fine, and people who feel that strongly against the referendum should do that. However, it won’t make any difference.

Some of the anti-referendum folks seem to believe that if the majority of ballots aren’t valid, the referendum results won’t be binding. Unfortunately, such people don’t know how the law works: The winning design will be the one that has the support of the majority of valid ballots. In other words, “informal votes” will be counted only for turnout, but will have no bearing on the result.

Even now, people will go on and on about how the more than $26 million this is costing us could be better spent on other things, and I agree that the money would have been better spent on almost anything else. However, I actually DO want to see a new flag, so my position is that the whole process was deeply flawed and, frankly, silly. If the process had been a good one, and if design professionals had been on the panel, it would be a different story and every cent would be justified.

But it is what it is: The money is spent, basically, and nothing can change that. The process was deeply flawed, but we have our final designs now, and nothing can change that, either. Maybe the “Red Peak” design shouldn’t have been added, since it wasn’t approved by the panel, or, maybe since it had popular support it was right for the government, with the support of the Green Party, to add it. But all of this—the amount of money, the flawed panel and process, the addition of “Red Peakʻ—all of that is now irrelevant, because the referendum is on.

Most citizens never get a say in their country’s flag, so this is an historic opportunity, and one I take very seriously. I haven’t yet finally decided how I’ll rank the five flags, though I think I’m getting close to a decision. How I vote in the second referendum will depend entirely on which new design the current flag is up against; if I don’t like the winning design, it’s at least theoretically possible that I might make that vote informal. Slightly ironic, I think, given my lack of enthusiasm for people doing that in the first referendum.

There are two things that are certain: I take this referendum very seriously, and also, I will vote. Right now, for me, that’s all that matters.

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