Exercising Our Rights . . . and Responsibilities
Brandon Sun, February 23, 2006 - David McConkey
We often take for granted the events that run so smoothly in the
community. Much work goes on behind the scenes. Plus, there is often a
partnership among official agencies, volunteers, and ordinary citizens.
My wife and I were reminded of this aspect of sustainable communities when we volunteered to be “scrutineers” during the recent election.
Scrutineers represent a political party and serve as watchdogs of the political proceedings. We signed up for a shift that started after work and went to the end of the counting of the ballots. To prepare and get the necessary papers, we attended a short training session at the campaign offices of “Our Party.”
We had already voted ourselves. We find it convenient to round the whole family up and vote the Sunday of the advance polling weekend. Young people today are notorious for skipping elections. We want to make sure ours actually vote.
“What if we don’t vote, Dad?” my teenagers asked.
“Then you don’t eat here,” was my reply. Fortunately, family coercion and bribery are specifically sanctioned under the Canada Elections Act.
The voting was held at a school near our home. In the gym were four different polls. When we arrived to scrutineer, we were first required to take an oath to obey the rules. The rules included not interfering with the voting and sitting at a separate table from the official election staff.
“Our Party” seemed to be the most organized. Each of the four polls had its own scrutineer.
Although there were seven candidates running in Brandon-Souris, only one “Other Party” had a representative at all. “Young Matt” was the scrutineer for the “Other Party.” He had to keep track of all four polls.
Young Canadians are known for political apathy. Not “Young Matt.” He beamed when he said he had just turned 18, and was able to vote for the very first time and participate in the election process.
As “Young Matt” made his rounds to each poll, the scrutineers of “Our Party” helped him out and shared our information – even though he was from the “Other Party.”
At 6:00 p.m., a runner from “Our Party” showed up to get our list of who had voted. “Our Party” wanted to know who had voted. Then, supporters who had not voted could be contacted and encouraged to get out and vote.
Our runner also brought us each a bag lunch of sandwiches, cookies, and a drink. We shared our food with “Young Matt.”
The evening went very smoothly as voters were efficiently and cheerfully processed.
Promptly at 8:30 p.m., the doors to the gym were closed and the ballots were counted. The election staff people were very diligent. We scrutineers watched carefully.
It was rather disappointing to discover that only one-half of the eligible voters bothered to show up.
We completed out scrutineer duties by phoning the results to “Our Party” headquarters. We then headed home to watch the national results on TV.
Millions of people all over the world would be thrilled to be able to vote in free elections. Here in Canada, voting couldn’t be any easier.
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