I really like voting. I don’t know why, but this formal act as a citizen makes me feel proud of being part of the community and that “I have something to say”.
As a French citizen living in Germany during my childhood, I remember very well taking the car to the consulate in Düsseldorf (a thirty minute drive) and then queueing for ages before seeing my parents vote. We weren’t much in contact with other French families at that time, so seeing other French people like me living in Germany was quite exciting.
This morning I went to vote; here in Britain for the local elections, it was just around the corner. I was so excited to vote that I went yesterday, and my husband had to rain on my political parade by telling me that the elections were the next day.
This morning I went to vote and it was different than usual. A little hand in mine, my child said: Do you think they’re taking us to the museum today because it’s Election Day? Probably not, but this doesn’t matter, as it was the beginning of a conversation about what voting means. Good luck parents and teachers- if you like challenges, this is one: telling a 5-year old about elections whilst they don’t know anything about politics, democracy and citizenship.
Luckily, the British people love displaying for whom they’ll vote. So we walked through the streets and were talking about the green posters, but also the red ones, in another area we had seen some orange ones. Are there also some in pink or light blue?, she asked me. How disappointing in this political rainbow, there is no space for pink or light blue.
More seriously, I have to say that to see all these posters in the windows is slightly unusual for me. No one in France or Germany, where I lived for a while, would ever dream of demonstrating so visibly which way they vote. Everything has to be secret, and sometimes serious, a bit too serious in my eyes. I really appreciated not being obliged to hide myself in an “isoloir” as it’s called in French. The booth is much more open. I remember one year voting with my toddler in France, she wasn’t allowed to go into the isoloir with me. Imagine a 2 year old telling everyone which paper Maman put in the envelope, what a catastrophe! This is another difference, in France you do not put a cross by the name of the person you want to vote for (like in Germany as well) but you have several small pieces of paper with the names of the different candidates. One paper for each. In the end you chose one of them and put it in a blue envelope (national colour obliged!).
My crosses written, I showed the kids where they belonged and asked whether it would be possible to let the children “vote”. As it’s not so much of a big deal, and it’s much more relaxed, the lady had no objection and both our kids “voted”. I found it funny that in the voting moment, your ballot paper disappears into the urn in an instant, without ceremony. I was just a bit disappointed. Ha, my Frenchness is still with me. In France, they ask you for your name again, say it in front of you, you put your paper in the urn (which is, by the way, transparent – you see if they are many voters!) and declare: “a voté”, which means “has voted”. The urge was stronger than me and when I saw both my kids voting (the little one had to be held) I said twice, “a voté”.
I went to vote this morning, just before school and it was a great moment. The first short political children’s stories about these green, red and other brightly-coloured people who will represent us and do their best in our local community!