Opinion || If you're confused about the number of candidates on the ballot for the New England by-election wait until you have to actually vote!

Tomorrow New England goes to the polls. I was one of those who yesterday decided to get in early and visit a pre-polling station to vote. 

I thought it was a good idea. I’ll be working on Saturday so the lure of numbering those boxes early was appealing. 

It wasn’t a hard journey. Just a drive down to the end of Peel St, Tamworth. I even lucked out on a carpark at the front (you beauty).

I was confident. I walked through the battlefield of colourful candidate posters spruiking their wares.

I walked past the lines of volunteers thrusting their “How to Vote” at me. I didn’t need them, I thought.

Mistake number 1.

I was quickly through the door and past the eager helper who beckon me on with: “Come this way if you want to vote”. There weren’t many people around. A few were lining up to collect their green voting slips. A handful more were huddled in the booths pondering the New England by-election ballot.

Was I eligible for a pre-poll vote, I was asked? Err, yes, I said, wondering if there had been some form of registration to vote early that I'd missed. Had I voted before now? No. I was handed a form and turned on my heel, walking towards the waiting polling booths. Still confident. 

Then I looked at the form. Where was my Number 1 vote going? Actually, where WAS the first candidate I wanted. There’s SEVENTEEN of them! I had to scan it a couple of times to find the name.

Number 2. That was no easier. I was looking for names. They aren’t alphabetical, they are by draw. My head hurt.

Number 3 and 4 seemed a little easier. I was getting the hang of trying to sort out the wheat from the chaff on the name front. 

Number 5.  Maybe I should switch to looking at the parties. Surely if I looked at the parties that might help. 

Number 6. Stumped again.

Then I stopped, breaking into a cold sweat. What about preferences? What if I had voted for the guys or gal I wanted but scuppered all that with those last 12 slots.

Suddenly the reason for grabbing those brightly fluttering How to Vote cards made sense. But it was too late for me. 

I gripped my pencil and filled in the rest of the numbers like taking a lottery ticket – I guessed them.

Next time, I’ll collect the cards. 

Juanita Greville

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