Cast your vote

Ballot boxI love voting – there’s something about that leisurely stroll to a familiar hall that has become transformed overnight into polling station complete with battered ballot boxes that is as magical as Christmas morning. Timeless, reassuringly familiar, yet full of excitement and anticipation for good things to come.

My mother’s side of the family have always been keen voters – among the treasures I discovered tucked away in a plastic bag of tights when my mother died was a WSPU (Votes for Women’s Suffrage) badge that must have belonged to her grandmother. So she never missed voting, sometimes to my dad’s frustration. He never tired of telling the story of the day she insisted they venture out in the fog after work one winter night to cast their vote.

“Complete bloody waste of time,” he said. “There were only two candidates – she voted for one and I voted for the other.”

But a vote cast is never a vote wasted. This was Cleo’s first election and it looks as if she has inherited her grandmother’s sense of responsibility vote-wise. Days before polling day she was still deciding who to vote for and to help make her mind up she completed an online quiz that, depending on your answers, let you know which party you were most allied with. The decision, of course is between her and the ballot box, but she decided that it was time that Katy, who has nine years to go before she is eligible to vote, completed the quiz too, asking her, among other things, whether she felt we should invest in the environment or the military. Twenty or so questions later we had our verdict “Well done Katy,” said Cleo once she’d finished. “Looks like you’re Plaid Cymru”. Not bad for a Londoner who has never been west of Oxford.

Her big sister Ella was voting in Manchester for the first time and was worried she wouldn’t be able to cast her vote because her name had been misspelt on her polling card. I told her she would be fine, and true enough, she was allowed in without a hitch. “It would be so much easier if we could do it online,” she said. That would take all the magic out of it, I told her, saying there was nothing to beat that feeling of trooping up to the school hall with your neighbours to make your mark in person.

No, technology has no place in the polling booth, as Liz discovered when we all went up to celebrate Cleo’s first vote together. As Cleo was handed her first ballot paper, Liz pulled out her phone and tried to capture the moment for posterity. “Sorry you’re not allowed to take photographs in a polling station” explained the presiding officer, primly.

“Rules rules rules!” cried Liz, and promptly went outside where she photographed Cleo next to the polling station, still muttering about petty bureaucrats ruining everyone’s fun. We may not have a photographic record of it, but we’ll never forget Cleo’s first election. As Katy explained, with a spot of dramatic licence, when we got back and Jack asked how we got on. “It was great – Liz and Cleo nearly got arrested trying to vote”.

Her great great grandma would be proud.

Posted by Amanda Blinkhorn


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