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It’s all my mother’s fault.

As long as I can recall, she’s been one of those people who runs a local election hall whenever there’s a local or state election.

The phone rings.

Entirely preoccupied and outrageously busy in my first couple of weeks in the new job… I was shocked to hear my mother’s voice.

It’s your mother. Do you want a day’s work for the upcoming local elections?

Umm, sure… [Agreeing to something I’m not interested in when really I’m just stunned she called me at all. Hi, how are you mum? Me? Oh, thanks for asking…]

Okay, they’ll send you some information in the mail. Goodbye.

But I forgot the date. And I didn’t send my paperwork back coz it got stuffed into one bag or another… then I moved, and couldn’t find anything…

Another phone call from the mother (first one post house moving).

It’s your mother. Did you ring them? They want to know if you’re still working on Saturday.

Oh it’s this Saturday? [I’d really like to continue with unpacking, but feeling a lil’ beholden coz I said yes in the first place] Oh, um, no… I didn’t ring them, but… I will…

Just to be clear – the work’s as boring as bat shit. If you listened closely last Saturday you woulda heard my brain cells committing hari kari. From the tedium.

Arriving in style on Bike-y, the pre-work briefing has already commenced.

The leader of my team speaks in slow soporific English tones. If I’m not careful, I’ll fall asleep between sentences. I figure it’s a day to practice certain kinds of open-eye meditation…

There are eight teams (I’m in team eight). Everyone is squished tightly into various rooms of an old fashioned council building.

This one was a postal election and the assembled human monkeys would be organising, stacking and counting all the ballots. Scintillating, yes?

Natural order kicks in. Amongst the sardined humans… some of us start organising others. Whether it’s experience from professional life, or a general sense of organisation… who knows? But some give orders, others passively accept them…

Welcome… to the antiquated methodology of an Australian electoral vote counting procedure:

Task 1: Run the ballots through the letter opening machine to remove the outer slips from the main envelope. Hand piles of fifty (the magic number) to the table of waiting workers. Workers must separate the slips and the envelopes into separate piles.

This is the easiest task of the day, but its amazing how slowing some people work when only one hand operates at a time!

~ Coffee break…
Where, those who took the lead, smugly consider the failings of those who humbly follow. Its umm… charming… ~

Task 2: Once again run ballots through machine to slice one of the long ends open. Hand piles of fifty to workers, who remove the ballots from their external envelope, keep ballot and envelope, discard any extraneous matter included by sender-inners.

Some people just don’t get it – no, remove and discard anything that’s not the outer envelope or the ballot paper… no, discard!

~ Lunch time ~

Task 3: Review ballots and remove any obvious informal votes.

Ensuing hilarity results from the various rude comments written by voters (‘Oh look! Somone drew a penis and wrote f*#k off!!’). Worker bees laugh and read out loud each and every comment left by random voters.

Task 4: Count all ballots – make sure we’ve got groups of fifty, and if not, get extra ballots from another pack to make up the fifty. Group each fifty into a pack of 10 to make overall counting easier.

Well, it was meant to be easier, except for an older woman who assumed that each bundle instead of being fifty, was now magically twenty-five. So… we had to go back and unbundle all her bundles. Re-sort them and count again.

~ Coffee break ~

Task 5: Review the slips that came in with each vote – put aside any where people have indicated their voting details have changed.

Much confusion around what constituted someone saying their details had changed [it’s when they ticked the ‘change of details’ box, people!!]

In a nod to modern technology, the votes are now ready to be ‘counted by computers’. Hooray!! And just to think… this process was being completed in council and/or school halls all over Victoria. ‘Nuff said.

‘Twas a sunny, bright and beautiful Saturday. And I spent it penned up with folks from all walks of life un-stuffing and shuffling tiny pieces of paper back and forth for $20/hour. Just so some people I’ve never heard of get to take up their roles as local council representatives…

And… along the way… learning to love the diversity of these humans that in all likelihood, I’ll never see again in my life…

~Svasti

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