it had actually been the worst job he’d had to do in his life HIS TABLE HAD 973 NAMES AND LONG QUEUES OF IMPATIENT PEOPLE

A close acquaintance of mine received the call to sit at an electoral table in his local polling station in these last municipal elections. He was pretty miffed at the whole idea, not because he was missing a lazy Sunday day off, but because he actually had another job for the whole weekend that he would have received a lot more money for than the 70 euros paid for complying with his civic duty. It does seem strange to me that someone who can justify not attending due to work commitments is still obliged to do it, when so many people would be quite happy to earn a leisurely 70 euros ticking names off a register all day.

Unfortunately, when I informed my acquaintance of my opinion, he turned almost purple with rage at my description of how he had spent his Sunday. In his words, it had actually been the worst job he’d had to do in his life. Firstly, because there’d been a cock-up with the numbers. Although you would’ve thought that numbers per table should be more or less equal in a polling station, while all of the other tables in his station had around 400 names and never a hint of a queue all day long, his had 973 and long queues of impatient people all morning and most of the rest of the day.

Also, three people are assigned to each table, including the president, but if the latter is extremely reluctant to be there and also very stressed out due to having a child to care for, then apparently that person will do very little to help and just spend the day complaining, while you and your colleague do all the hard work.

One slightly disturbing anecdote involved a very senior voter whose daughter had sent him to my acquaintance’s table and seemingly abandoned him there, even though he didn’t appear on the list. The gentleman in question wasn’t allowed to vote and sat around for the best part of an hour until someone figured out that he was actually at the wrong polling station, even though his daughter’s computer had said otherwise.

It turned out that a lot of people weren’t on the list because they were going to their local polling station but were still registered at their old one because the lists only included those registered in the neighbourhood up until Feb 1 of this year, and presumably they had not completed the necessary paperwork to be switched.

A further complaint by my acquaintance was that there is no tech involved to help, so he had to write down 650 names on paper by hand. But by far the worst aspect of it from my viewpoint is that he was at the table from 8 am to 10.30 pm with only one 30-minute break to go out and grab a bite to eat. When I told him that can’t be right, he just said that there was no one in charge so he had to follow the president’s lead, and he didn’t want to deal with her given the mood she was in.

And to round off a joyless electoral day for him, there was the counting process at the end of it all, which if you were lucky did not involve encountering pieces of food such as salami stuffed in your envelopes (apparently not as unusual as you’d think).

So the big question: does my acquaintance think the democratic process is trustworthy? Absolutely, he said, if anything it’s too strict, and he doesn’t want to be called up for it ever again.


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