The First Vote
“Why do I have to vote?”
And with that my reminder of the up coming Federal Election hit home.
“It is your democratic right and your civic duty,” I told her.
She heard, “I am eighteen I am going to the Sand Bar. See you later.”
And they let this person vote.
She finished her HSC exams, turned eighteen and got to vote all within a two-week period.
The big day arrived and I was up early. I was showered, dressed, had breakfast, managed two loads of washing, vacuumed and washed the floors and cleaned the bathroom before she dragged herself into the kitchen.
I took one look at her attire, shorts, tank top, thongs, baseball cap and sunglasses. “Is that what you are wearing?”
She looked down at her clothes “What’s wrong with it. All I am going to do is mark off and shove a piece of paper into a box. Not exactly a formal affair.”
I decided against telling her that it would be two different papers.
Then before I knew it she boomeranged the ‘is the queen coming?’ at me. I had often wondered how long before that came back to haunt me. Her timing was impeccable.
“If the queen was here you wouldn’t eat like that. If the queen was here you would remember your manners. If the queen was here you… etc.” I lost count of the times I used that one on her. I remained calm. “No. I am sure the queen is busy with other things and besides she doesn’t get to vote.”
“Lucky her,” she derided, “I wish I was the queen.”
Looking at her dress sense I was convinced that her wish would never see the light of day. “Do you know how lucky you are to be able to vote? In some countries they don’t have that privilege.”
“Not my problem,” she insisted. “And if I was queen I wouldn’t make any one get up this early to vote.”
The clock read 11am.
So I went for the ultimate clincher. “If you don’t vote you will get a fine and as you are eighteen you will be paying for it.”
She was in the car in record time.
She saw the camera. She rolled her eyes. “Mum, you really aren’t going to take a photo are you?”
“Of course I am. How many times do you get to vote for the first time?”
“I am guessing one,” she replied, “who do I vote for anyway?”
“I can’t tell you what to do.”
“Why? It hasn’t stopped you so far.” Her iPod went on.
She was determined to ruin this for me.
Arriving at the school we ran the gauntlet of each political party handing out their pamphlets. She took one from everyone. She couldn’t be accused of bias.
Inside we made our way to the desk. She gave her name and watched closely as the woman searched for it.
“Have you voted anywhere else today?”
“You’re kidding right,” was her response.
“A no would have sufficed,” I said.
“Why did we have to come so early? What time to you close?” she asked.
She threw me a look of disdain. I didn’t bother taking a photo of it.
She managed to get her name crossed off and text four separate people to claim she was being held hostage at the polling booth and it was all my fault.
“I don’t make the rules.” I started up the ‘it’s your democratic right’ but I had lost her. She was already having an in depth conversation with a fellow ‘hostage.’
She held up the two pieces that signified democracy, threw me another look and made her way to yet another line. “I should have brought more hands,” she said as she struggled to hold the leaflets and the ballot papers. “I am going to shove them all in the box,” she grumbled. “I will be here forever. Look at the size of this one.”
It was not the time to remind her that she should have read the ‘How to Vote’ brochure that came in the post.
“How long is this going to take I have a life you know?”
Patience is not a trait she was blessed with.
“It will take as long as it takes,” I replied
She rolled her eyes.
What bugged me the most was that in three days time I knew I would have a better response than the one I just gave her.
She went through her pamphlets. “Am I a swinging voter?”
After I got over my initial shock of the question I explained what it meant.
She shrugged and right before my eyes she turned into a swinging voter.
“I might vote for her, or him, or this one. Look at this geezer. I am definitely not voting for him. He looks weird.”
I looked at the picture it was hard to disagree with her. I have heard worse reasons for not voting for someone.
A booth opened. “Finally,” she sighed and stepped up. Another opened and I stepped up to execute my democratic right. When I had finished she was still in the booth with her head down.
“What were you doing?” I asked as she came away from the booth.
She rolled her eyes. “Democracy takes time, Mum.” She made her way over to the boxes.
“Remember to put the right one in the right box.”
Her hands went to her hips. “I’m not stupid.” She held up her papers in triumphant.
“You could have folded the white one a bit neater.”
I received yet another look.
“I have never been good at folding table cloths.”
Tablecloth was a bit of an exaggeration as were her claims at folding them. “You can at least smile.”
“I am.” She glared at me as the people waited to add their ballots.
“Have you finished humiliating me?” she said through clenched teeth as the murmurs behind me began to get riotous. I quickly hurried her out. I knew what they were thinking… And they let this person vote.