Today was the first time I’ve ever voted in the UK ever! Even though Aussies are allowed to vote after being here for 3 months and I’ve been here for 10 years, voting has not been compulsory and as a result, I have been exercising my right not to vote. It’s quite nice. I like it. For someone who doesn’t follow politics, it’s nice not to be forced into making a choice on something I don’t know anything nor have an opinion about.
To me, compulsory voting has been just like forcing a non-vegan or non-health oriented person to choose between raw nuts (with various choices of nut), nut butter (with various choices of nut) or non-dairy nut milk or non-dairy-non-nut milk (various choices of nut, hemp, soy, rice, coconut) along with choosing either hemp, pea, whey or rice protein and picking which algae (various choices) or grass (various choices) to incorporate to make a smoothie, without of course any guidance on choice other than a whole bunch of ads (if you managed to see any) on TV.
To be honest, even that is easier than politics, all those choices are static and don’t lie or change their minds or composition. None of it has been flooding you with propaganda telling you why the other choices suck and why it’s so damned scary if you choose the others. However, with this example no matter what you choose, the end result is going to be good for you (unless you’ve got a nut allergy and you chose a nut)! Can’t really say the same for choice of politicians! You choose a nut and you still might get crackers! 😉
In Australia you HAVE TO vote, whether you know or are interested in what’s going on or not. As per above example, why the hell should you be forced to choose, when you don’t even know where to start?! But, that’s the way it is in Oz. There are a lot of things I think are better in Oz, this isn’t one of them. To be fair, the population is so small and the culture, so laid back that chances are, if it wasn’t compulsory, everybody would be at the beach and only 2 people would turn up to vote. It’d be a draw and they’d have to flip a coin before having a stubbie at a mate’s backyard barbie.
Coincidentally, they’ve got an election happening this July in NSW and I need to cast my vote for that too and send it over. But unlike my choice to vote today, if I don’t do this one, I get fined! You should see the size of this form though! It’s approx. 5 x A4 size, 41 boxes across and up to 12 boxes deep and to add to that, you have to number the boxes in order of preference!!! OK, not ALL the boxes, just up to 12.
Still, it’s enough to confuse a simple minded person like me who only wants a choice of 3… max. Think I’ll just go for the top line where I just choose 6 out of 41 which is like saying “I’ll just go for the chicken.” at the restaurant. Now I just have to choose between chicken dishes.
This ballot sheet is like looking at a restaurant menu hungry and not craving for anything, with 1000 mains to choose from. You get so confused and when you go back to find the thing you thought you might like, you can’t find it in the sea of choices, so you read through it all again and find something else. Next thing you know, you’ve found 4 or 5 amongst the sea and now you have to remember the choice, the page, the position on the page of the items you like and then you sit there playing a game of memory and elimination while you decide which of ALL those choices, is the one you’re going to go for. I bet the polling booths are too small for the size of the damned sheet of paper! And at a restaurant, you don’t have to put your dish choice in order of preference! Half an hour of deliberation and reading through that novel of a menu, you finally just pick something, anything. ‘Cause all you want is to get your food and get out of there.
I quite prefer having the choice of not having to go through that rigmarole unless I want to. This way, I CAN make my vote count when something is actually important to me. If I care enough about something, I’ll know about it and have an opinion on it, I’ll make the effort to turn up and then the menu won’t look so overwhelming. It’s easy to pick what you want from a menu when you already know what you want!
Today, the UK voted on the EU Referendum and that was important enough for me to trudge through the rain to my nearest polling station to have my say! I lost my polling card (which you don’t need), OK I threw it away but it was easy peasy finding where my nearest polling station was. I found the address and walked there looking for the crowds of people to identify where it was only to find nobody around. It was completely empty. EMPTY!!! There was seriously only me and one other person there to vote but then I understood why. It took about 2 seconds for them to tell me which desk to go to, 3 seconds for them to find my name on the list and 1 second to give me the form, maybe 2 more seconds to explain what I had to do (fill in the form, fold in half and pop in this box) and THEN… get this… the form was the size of an A5 sheet of paper, with no more than 15 words in size 40 font and 2 boxes.
The first time I ever had to vote in the UK and they made it so simple a 1 year old could do it. Do you want this? Yes or no?
It was the best voting experience I’ve ever had! My dream come true! It seriously took no longer than 2 mins to go in there, vote and come back out. AMAZING!!!! I wish all voting was that simple!
So what did I vote? RemaIN.
I did so because my quality of life in the UK and my understanding of life has been something to be very grateful for and enhanced and I know it’s that way because of our inclusion in the EU. I don’t know what it was like before the EU, my whole experience of the UK has been while it has been part of the EU and I don’t have much to complain about (other than the NHS). I cannot speak for what it was like before, nobody knows what it will be like in the future but if you don’t consider something that broken, why would you want to fix or change it?
I then thought about the youth of today who are too young to vote but want to stay in the EU (over 70% of them have voiced their want to remain) and felt a responsibility for my choice to include them. There’s nothing worse than 1 generation creating a mess requiring the next 5 generations to fix. Ahem.. global warming and cancer!! I’m not saying that leaving the EU would have such devastating consequences but rather, why not consider the lives and opinions of those who come after you, when making decisions that will impact them?
And, what about those who have no say because they aren’t allowed to vote and yet whose lives will be impacted by this decision? All the EU citizens living in the UK also rely on us to consider their opinions, and their futures and their choice is to remain (I’ve seen so many Vote to Remain posters on all the Italian, Portuguese and French restaurants in our area!).
There were other things I considered like the EU’s restrictions on GMO food which I think is awesome (although some might still have been imported to the EU, our exposure to GMO food is much less than it is in the USA and other places because of EU regulations). I considered their rules on factory farming and regulations for animal welfare (although at the moment I still think regulation size animal housing for “free range” is still small, at least it allows the animals fresh air, sunlight and greater room to spread their wings unlike other countries). I love the rules on transparent food labelling and although it seemed a bit “lazy” to me the workaholic, their rules on human wellbeing through a work-life balance (not being legally required to work more than 48 hours incl overtime a week) has grown on me a lot!
Their attitude towards equal rights for all minority groups, their proactive attitude towards environmental issues and their willingness to maintain peace are all plusses and of course it’s easier to trade with them if you’re one of them. I like laws and regulations that look after the wellbeing and health of the people, animals and environment so why would I want to separate from that? Yes, as with many things, there is always room for improvement but it’s easier to do it cooperatively than separately.
Lastly, their open boarders policy doesn’t just allow citizens of the EU to move around freely without the need for a tonne of visa applications. It encourages diversity, understanding and acceptance of differences. Diversity here in Europe is different to how I’ve experienced it elsewhere. There is no assimilation required. You are (wherever country you are from, whatever nationality you identify with), you are allowed to be that which you are, you can continue to be while living elsewhere, you speak your own language (and 5 others so you can communicate with everyone you meet) and you are all European. Europeans share their individual country’s culture, food, fashion and uniqueness without ever giving it up while sharing a greater identity of being European. Each country is so different and yet they have worked out a way to be friends. I like it and I like being able to be a part of that whole and I want to have had my say that I want that to continue happening, including Great Britain!
I know I looked at it more from a wellbeing for all point of view but hubby looked at it through his commercial point of view for some balance and he also came to the same conclusion – to remain. He’s not in the country to vote (nor is he registered for postal voting due to last minute trip away). Therefore, my vote was only one to represent many. I really hope it counts today.