I was hired as a ‘Polling Assistant’ for the 2013 federal election. In a nutshell, my duties were to:
- Search through the electorate roll at least twice per person because our Australian accents are not designed for clarity.
“It’s the alternative spelling of O’Brian”
“You should have told me that when I was O’Tryin to find your name the first time”
- Answer repetitive conversational topics with the same answer, resisting the urge to make bad jokes. For example:
Voter: “Wow, I didn’t realize there were so many O’Brian’s in Toowoomba”
Generic Response: “There sure is quite a few”
What I wanted to say: “If you guys had a family reunion the police would probably show up”
Voter: “My Son’s wedding is in half an hour, can I skip the queue?”
Generic Response: “Please do”
What I wanted to say: “Is this is an elaborate ruse to save yourself twenty minutes? Maybe I should do that next year and ask all my mates to go with me as a fake wedding party.”
Voter: “I just could not be bothered getting out of my pajamas to vote”
Generic Response: “That’s quite alright”
What I wanted to say: “I’m not sure whether to be offended at your lack of dignity or jealous at your obvious comfort”
Voter: “Why do you need to ask if I’ve voted in this election before?”
Generic Response: “Because some people do not realise it is an offence to vote multiple times”
What I wanted to say: “I know what you’re planning. I am also a member of the illuminati and will support your endeavors.”
Voter: “Why do I have to vote using the booth pencils?”
Generic Response: “It assists in the counting process”
What I wanted to say: “The Government requires proof that you have a valid pen license. If you are not qualified for pen usage, you will be fined for using a pen in a public place.”
- As well as marking names off the role, I had to explain how to vote and I estimated that I said the same explanation phrase at least two hundred and fifty times that day. However, what I would have liked my explanation to be was:
“The green ballot paper is the house of representatives. You will need to place a 1 next to the candidate you hate the least and number the rest in order of preference. The toilet paper ballot paper is the Senate, and you can choose to vote above or below the line. If you choose to vote above the line, you can only choose one party to vote for. If you vote below the line, you will need to number the candidates in order of preference from 1-82 which will take a long time. Try not to be overwhelmed by how large this piece of paper is, or get frustrated because it will not fit inside the voting booth, or think about how awesome a paper aeroplane made out of this would be.”
After the voting booth closed at 6.00 we were required to count the votes. I was also able to view the fabulous array of donkey votes casted, which I classify under the following headings:
The Angry Citizen: Vote is fully completed but an angry rant fills any empty space. Must be read out loud for the other counters to hear in a ‘capslock’ voice without moving your lower jaw. Common phrases include:
“TONY ABBOT IS THE SCUM OF THE EARTH AND KEVIN RUDD IS A CHINESE SPY”
“WHAT HAS AUSTRALIA COME TO? WHERE IS THE DEMOCRACY?”
“THE GOVERNMENT IS RUN BY SLIMY FISH POLITICIANS WHO DO NOT ENJOY VEGEMITE”
The Undecided Citizen: First preference goes to someone written by the voter. Popular choices include Donald Duck, Jesus, Reece Mastin and Stewie Griffin.
The Offensive Citizen: An offensive, yet very artistic picture is drawn. Much time and talent is poured into this uncounted vote.
If you are allured to the glorious prospect of working on an election day, it is easy to apply. I simply went to the Australian Electoral Commission’s website and put my contact details and experience online. It’s paid great money (a polling assistant makes ~$380 for the day) and they are often short of staff. My mother applied a few days before the election and added this in the details space: “My computer is playing up and I am unable to fill out the application properly. I am contactable on the number provided”. She was called up a day before the election and offered a position.
I’d like to conclude with a picture of Kevin Rudd showcasing his selfie-taking skills.