I just want to vote…Please!

Posted on May 3, 2010

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To date I have focused on the stories I wish to tell through my photography, but feel that this is a story that needs to be shared.  The tale of one girl, who just wanted to vote in her country’s general election no matter how much effort it took.  She had to battle a lack of information by UK electoral services and a lack of A4 paper by the Canadian’s and even a volcano!  Yes, life is hard for a Brit in British Columbia, at least in the run up to polling day!

This Thursday, May, 6th 2010 will be the first election since turning 18 in which I will not participate.  While growing up voting was a right for me.  It was our opportunity to share our thoughts, when Scotland voted for devolution I was part of the group who helped hold a mock school election.  Naturally the Scottish National Party came out on top, with an overwhelming 99%, and although my political opinions evolved, the importance did not.

As an adult I have been a photographer working in the press.  Amongst the thick of it, I have photographed the politicians, the ballots, the polling booths, the posters, voters and everything that comes with an election.  I’m used to being amongst everything as the results are read.

This year I will be watching from afar having worked in Vancouver for the past three months, but I planned ahead, postal vote ordered and confirmed.  An election was imminent.  Sure enough the announcement is made.  Time to double check my voting status.  Roadblock number one is hit when my family is informed my ballot won’t reach me in time to be returned and I will need a proxy vote.

So I scramble to get the online proxy vote downloaded.  It won’t print, the bottom is cut off, I try again and again.  Still no luck.  Looking at the paper, it looks a little stumpy.  This didn’t look right but A4 is universal right?  And I can’t change the size as the instructions said do not shrink to fit.  Time to contact my voting district office, good old Cardiff North.  A marginal seat, hence my vote is so important to me.  There I am first told I should be going with a postal vote.  I explain that their office has already informed me it won’t reach me.  I gain the response, oh that’s probably right, best to go with proxy and I am told to download the form I had queried the printing of initially. I again explain that I am aware of this, have the form and am simply trying to print.  To which the only guidance I gain is ‘have you tried printing the form upside down’.  Time to hit the printers!

As it turns out the electoral office could not have helped with my printing problem, as it appears in North America someone somewhere thought letter sized paper was a far more sensible decision, a full cm shorter than A4.  The paper was stubby after all, (note to self always trust one’s eyesight.)

Next stop Staples, where I ask for A4 paper to purchase only to be told, they do not stock the European sizes (I must inform my A4 using Australian house mate in she is now European). I ask for suggestions on how to print my form without it being cropped.  The only option is the print on legal paper.  Which of course I do, only to be hit on return with a $5 bill, that’s £3.50 for four pieces of standard, slightly long, paper!!  And when I ask to crop it with their guillotine, I am informed that will be a dollar per slice on a cutter which is only large enough for ‘letter size’ paper, I respectfully decline.

Ok, paper is sorted, the next stop is the post office.  You hear stories of how atrocious Canada Post is, but I’ve always heard the same about Royal Mail and never felt they were much of a problem so I am optimistic.  How naïve.  Due to a large cloud of ash grounding all flights to the UK I felt the safest option would be the fastest one.  It can’t cost much for an envelope only, especially when standard post is $1.70.  Oh no, $65, yes $65 for… an envelope. Ok, the middle speed that must be much more reasonable.  I know it only speeds things up by one or two days but that might make the difference…$56.  I miss Royal Mail!

I am a dedicated voter, but not that dedicated, so I take the standard speed, my mothers day card arrived pretty fast.  Hopefully this will too, ash cloud or no ash cloud.

All I can do now is wait and hope it arrives in time, trusting my parents will check up when their ballot cards arrive.  They do, my postal vote has appeared but no word on the proxy.  They know my tale of voting woes thus far and are shocked to be informed that I am unable to vote despite my proxy registration having arrived on time – thanks to my dedication to overcome everything, even the volcano.  Upon asking why, they are told… because I hadn’t cancelled my postal vote!

Was there any word of my needing to cancel my postal vote on the information I read online, no! Was there any mention by the woman in the electoral office I conversed with in seven emails, no! Or how about in my parents’ telephone conversations with the voting office, of course not!

So it would seem my challenge to be voter of the year has failed and alas my opinion will not be counted for the first time in my adult life.  So I will have to keep my fingers crossed that my desired candidate survives.  On the plus side, I am certainly pleased I did not stretch to $65 to get my form in on time.

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Posted in: Writing