Sunday, October 04, 2020

Pōti ahau – I voted (2020)

Today I voted in New Zealand’s General Election, which closes on Saturday, October 17. Each year an increasing number of voters choose to vote early, and for me there was no reason for me not to do it today. It was a bright, sunny, warm Spring day, so what could be a better way to spend it than to vote?

I’d planned on voting sometime this coming week, when there are a lot of voting places open. I changed my mind when my niece posted on Facebook that she’d voted this morning, and I thought, “Why not?” I used to always wait to go with Nigel to vote, but that’s obviously no longer relevant. But I did wear Nigel’s bracelet today so that, in a way, I could bring him with me.

I checked the vote.nz website to find one open today, because not many are open on Sunday. The site lists the times and day as well as date voting places are open. There was one “just up the road”—a couple kilometres away, maybe. I drove over there only to find it was closed.

I can’t begin to describe how disappointed I was—“crushed” may be too strong a word, but not by much. I really did have my heart set on voting today.

So, as I closer to home, I pulled over and picked up my phone to find another possible voting place. Instead of using the site to find me a place, I instead looked at the map (which begins with all of NZ that I needed to enlarge). There was nothing near me, so I looked a bit further afield, looking for one in my Electorate (Hamilton has two) because I knew it would be easier for everyone, and because I wasn’t sure where the Electorate boundaries actually are. I remembered only later that there are a few voting places that serve both Electorates.

I set off with my GPS telling me where to go (though I actually knew most of the way there), and as I got near I saw the “Voting” sign on the road, and turned in. Siri was not happy with me and kept telling me to “return to the route”. I’m sure it was only my imagination that each instruction sounded a bit more annoyed than the one before. I should add that the address I entered (also from the Vote.NZ website) may not have been wrong because the voting place was in a park building, and the park may have had two entrances, for all I know (there’s a lot of Hamilton I don’t know).

I went in after scanning the QR code for the Covid-19 contact tracing App, and a friendly lady directed me on where to go to vote. I saw tape marks on the floor to tell people where to stand if there was a queue.

I entered the door to the actual room, which was empty except for the workers. There was another QR code, which, the helpful guy told me, was the same as the one I’d already scanned. They invited me to sanitise my hands, and if I didn’t bring my own pen. I could take one to use and then take home afterward. So, I did.

I went to the lady checking people in and chatted with her and the woman next to her (who was dealing with more complicated votes). I stood on the tape mark on the floor, and there were several behind me. The lady dealing with the more complicated votes had six chairs in a line in front of her (because it can be very time consuming), each chair meeting physical distancing requirements.

I asked the ladies how busy they’d been and they told me it had been steady today, but yesterday—the first day of voting—was more hectic. I was given my two voting papers (one for Party Vote and Electorate Vote, and the other for the two referenda). She also pointed to the ballot boxes and to the freestanding voting booths (they had two for people standing, and one lower one for people in wheelchairs).

I did my General Election paper first—two ticks Labour, of course), and then the referenda: I voted “Yes” on both. I triple-checked to make sure I hadn’t made any mistakes, then folded the voting papers back in half again, walked over to the ballot boxes, put my referendum paper in its box and my General Election voting paper in its ballot box.

I paused at that point because a woman had just entered the door, wearing a mask, and I waited until she moved toward the table with the lady before I moved to leave. I was again invited to sanitise my hands, and I did. I thanked everyone and left.

Once outside, I waited until some park visitors got into their car to leave so I could take my selfie (for my Instagram post, included above). As I walked back to my car, another one pulled into the parking area, and a couple got out, neither one was wearing a mask. Then, another car pulled in and three people got out, all of them wearing masks.

I didn’t wear a mask because we’re at Level One (the lowest level) and there’s currently no community transmission. More importantly, there hasn’t been any official advice to wear masks, and none of the staff working there were wearing masks, either. If the government advised us to wear a mask, I probably would have. However, the chance of getting infected there under our current reality is next to none, and, in any case, since I scanned the QR code, the government will be able to let me know in the infinitesimally small chance that someone with Covid-19 had been there.

Once I found a voting place, everything went very well. Everyone was really nice, and it was kind of cool having the place to myself for awhile. The lady who came in just before I left didn’t look very friendly, so I wondered if maybe she was frightened. I’ll never know, of course, but I do know that for some reason some people find the process stressful, and that’s probably even more true this year.

Going to vote is like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one—I absolutely love it. That’s why I was so disappointed when it looked like I’d have to wait after I’d already decided I wanted to vote today and had my heart set on it. I’m glad everything worked out.

We’ll get preliminary results of the General Election the evening of October 17, but the referenda votes will be counted after that, so we won’t hear the preliminary results for them until late in the month. Many years ago, probably the first one I could vote in, there were two referenda, too, but they chose to tally those and the referenda that night, which meant we didn’t know how the General Election turned out until very late that night. Clearly the elections people learned from that experience.

And that’s it for my NZ voting this year. I wish I could go do it again, but the next time will be three years from now. I’m sure I’ll get excited about that, too.


Roger Owen Green said...

I've decided to vote in person during the week leading up to the US election. Seems to be the safest option.
Oh, and I'm not going to vote for the guy who decided to drive around in an SUV while still recovering from COVID.

Arthur Schenck said...

I would be very disappointed if you did vote him.

For some reason, voting by mail isn't a "thing" in New Zealand—I have no idea why not. With two weeks of advance voting, though, there's plenty of time to vote in person and avoid crowds.