In Praise of Voting Below the Line


I've just voted. Or, more precisely, I voted about fifteen minutes ago and I've just finished the walk home from my local polling station.

There are an almost infinite array of things to take delight from when voting.

The fact that our elections are conducted by fellow citizens, wearing nothing more than a laser-printed badge saying 'polling official' (prima facie evidence of a working civil structure).

The father behind me in the queue explaining, quite specifically, what he's about to do (and why) to his kids, who are coming along with him because they're already convinced voting is a cool and interesting thing to do.

The crowd of people from a dozen or so ethnic and national backgrounds happily hardening their arteries by scarfing $2.00 serves of grilled-sausage-on-white-bread-with-grilled-onions-&-lashings-of-tomato-sauce after voting. (Like many polling booths in South Australia, mine is on the grounds of a primary school, and said school is doing a little fund-raising via a semi-captive audience).

But, just now, it's not the nobility of democracy in action, nor the worthiness of a healthy civil system, I'm moved to note. It's my unashamed shadenfreude at filling out my Legislative Assembly ballot below the line. (Shadenfreude aside, I vote this way because voting above the line gives too much power to the preference deal-makers within the various parties standing for election.)

There are 54 people standing for 11 open seats in the upper house this election and some of them are truly awful.

Now, I could vituperate these folk. I could suggest Barbara Pannach and Basil Hille (the two One Nation candidates) are representatives of a paranoid, xenophobic, anti-intellectual, anti-reality, 'I can't handle complexity and want things to be the way I thought they were when I was young and stupid' party.

I could say that Dennis Hood (number one candidate for Family First) is a hateful fundamentalist who's arrogant swagger and self-righteous religiosity remind me more of Elmer Gantry than they do St Francis of Assisi or Hillel the Elder.

But it's a lot more fun to put the numbers 52, 53 and 54 against their names as I finish laying down my preferences.

And it's a lot more fun because vitriol doesn't do anything but make me feel (temporarily) better. Putting these pathetic examples of adulthood last on a ballot paper means I've taken a concrete step towards these folk not getting into parliament.

Of course, if there are enough xenophobic dullards or sanctimonious fundamentalists out there, Dennis or Barbara (and even Basil, if there are an appalling number of xenophobic dullards) may still end up taking up space and time on the corner of North Terrace & King William Street.

But it won't be because I've not done my personal bit to prevent them.

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