Election, & counting with a base of 40, or 50

This was what I was doing on Sunday, working in the polling station in the gym at Geresta School, where a democratically fantastic 87% of the 1809 voters actually voted in the 3 elections. Parliament, county and local council elections are always on the same day.

Which explains why it took till 03.30 to count and close everything! And blip had to wait. In the main picture it's gone 2 o'clock and I am sorting the envelopes for the third election, the county council. We count the parliamentary election first and ring in the results, then the local council, and finally the county. The bundles are 50 each and have to be counted twice before we rip them open and counts the ballots. 

Whilst I sat on the floor with this pile of ballots, the other 6 people were still working on the council election. It's important to keep the ballots separate, so the floor felt safest. This time we had a counting machine, and it was the old sort that actually worked wonderfully well. The new one we tried during the training session was absolute rubbish, giving different results all the time. Accuracy is the keyword, obviously, not least in this election where the gap between the blocks is so hair-fine as to be almost invisible - o.3% in fact.

Earlier I counted the number of votes cast by totalling the columns in the voting register for our district polling station. There are 40 people per page. The turnout was 87%, you can see the whole result in a diagram here. that meant the base was 40 and I subtracted the non-votes, rather than adding up the voters - one page had 39 in all three columns which was impressive to see! I am notoriously poor at this sort of thing, but I sharpened up and made only a couple of errors. Not too important since everything is counted twice anyhow if it doesn't tally with envelopes with the paper ballots that we count. Everything is counted again, twice, and any irregularities are decided on. It is impossible to "loose" a ballot. I love this!

We had three votes for Donald Duck, a few unpleasant written comments in language that I own't repeat here. Obviously, since Donald wasn't up for election these ballots were spoiled. It lightened the tired spirits a bit when the duck got a vote, less so when racist remarks surfaced. 

There were mad queues all day as the new rule was to keep the picking of the ballots secret, one person choosing at a time, and boy did some people take ages doing that. This procedure used to be more open, and several voters could choose at the same time, which compromised the secret element. So it's a good idea, which the tired waiting voters agreed on. But standing in line for almost an hour in a boiling hot corridor (we did our best to ventilate with 2 open doors and chairs to sit on) is not ideal and there were some complaints. Feedback will fine-tune things I hope.

We had well over 600 votes that were made in advance and arrived in our polling station in extra large envelopes, in two huge boxes. This involves a lot of extra work, opening, checking, and finally including them in the ballot boxes when we close the voting at 20.00 - no wonder we were still there at 03.00! I think we needed a couple more people to work after we closed, it was a long, long day that finished with us carrying away all the furniture we had carried in the day before the election. And of course cleaning the place, it's a school and lessons begin early. It's all part of the job which pays us a nominal sum that remains the same regardless of the hours worked. I think it will be about £120 before tax this year, so it's a labour of love and solidarity with democracy.

There are so many bags of paper ballots and envelopes that will be recycled, but the ones with very little printing on them are (in our town) made into note pads at a workshop for people with physical and mental limitations. Better than the incinerator!

The woman looking at the camera in the extra is Ruth, our Irish friend who is in charge of this polling station. Her day began at about 6, she and Emil (sitting on the floor) fetched the advance votes at 7 in the morning, and at 3.30 at night they were just heading off to the council offices to deliver the many bags of paper rubbish, the sensitive documents that have to be destroyed, the bits and pieces (tape, scissors, letter openers, rubber thimbles, sticky notes, pens, string, torch (!), rubber bands, counting machine, and on and on) and our results! We fell into bed at 04.30 which is a record for me. Spare a thought for Linnéa, the 23 year old student standing on the right. She started work with a gang of 6 year olds this morning and is on duty all day. Everyone else had taken the day off or, were like us and Berit, pensioners who decide on their own timetable. Such a hero! (Susanne was also on the team, but she's not in the picture)

I have only been actually hung over once in my life - didn't like it one bit so I have never done it again - but this morning at quarter to ten when I got up, I felt like I was hung over. The situation for the government is very uncertain, the blocks are almost the same and the votes that come in from abroad, late votes could well swing it one way or the other. The far right fascist party increased from 14 to almost 18%, but far from the predicted doubling of their vote share. In some areas in the dark south they are more than a third, in our area 11.6% which gives the 5 seats on the council. The Socialists that we have been working for have 4, previously we had 3 seats. It looks like the red side has a tiny lead in our town at the moment. Time will tell.

Thank you all for your supportive comments and kind thought, prayers and affection. Today is a day of rest and recuperation, then the bike will be out and the spirits will be refreshed. The man we bought the bikes from, Peter, voted in our station yesterday which was nice! As did a few ex-colleagues, ex-students, friends, party comrades, and people whose faces I know. That side of the election is so lovely, feeling like I am part of a community, working together to make good choices.

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