Is it the BBQ or socializing?
Australians, you knew they might have a different take on it. Honest, it is the “barbie” for them. They are concerned to find the best BBQ place before selecting a polling place. Seems they queue up to grab their customary “Democracy Sausage.” The queue for the meat is often longer than the queue to vote.
Our neighbors, the Canadians, according to researcher Brandon Tozzo, pre-register when they file taxes and are mailed a slip with the location to vote. There are dozens of voting places in a riding (decided by a non-partisan federal institution) that is well staffed. A voter goes in, shows their voting slip, and casts a ballot. Rarely takes more than five minutes (course there are fewer Canadians, mainly stuffed near their southern border by the cities, but others are spread out throughout a vast wilderness).
One Canadian commentator in Ontario wrote that a nonpartisan national commission runs the election, while another note: “I’ve waited longer for a bus than I have ever waited to vote.”
An Irish woman told researcher Tozzo: “20 minutes (it took me to vote) but that was because I met a neighbor, then a friend, then knew the returning officer so said hello, then finally voted.
“Took another hour to leave the pooling station, nothing like an election for Irish people to get a chance to chat.”
Folks in Norway, Germany and other European countries said there were plenty of placed to drop off ballots ahead of time and that unlike in the U.S., most polling locations were a short walk from home. (In fairness these countries are more compact that the United States, which adds to the challenge.)
Voting is simplified in a variety of countries from Germany to Israel by scheduling Election Day on a weekend—thus not cutting into a working day or complicating day care for families (although children are welcome in polling booths in the U.S.)
One man from India, the second most populous country in the world, points out his country handles more ballots than any other democracy in the world. At the same time India has a higher level of illiteracy than the U.S. and a lot more people vote in India than in the U.S., but still without these long lines.
Some Appreciate the Enthusiasm
Some like Annie of Austin, TX, waiting in the dark and cold with friends for the polls to open on the first day of early voting, see enthusiasm in the line wrapped around the building and down the street. Pizza to the Polls in Austin, TX, came to the aid of voters there. The company vowed to “make democracy delicious” by delivering free food to all polling places with long lines. They reported scanning twitter for locations and have sent 2, 418 pies in 2020.
Roland Martin from Atlanta said he had voted all his life, but he had tears rolling down his face in his car outside Friendship-West Baptist Church in Atlanta. He drove up and saw a long line rolling down the street and felt honor in the length of the line.
Martin remembered civil rights leader John Lewis, who played a pivotal role in the Selma, Alabama march and later served decades in Congress. In July he was buried from Martin Luther King’s church in Alabama. Lewis’s words came to Martin: “The vote is the most powerful nonviolent tool we have.”
American citizens have different opinions about what the voting experience should be. Voting in America, particularly registering to vote, is more complicated than it needs to be. Yet as of Sunday, November 1, 2020, a total of 93 million early ballots have been cast 68% of the total votes cast in the 2016 Presidential Election. After the Pandemic we need to devise a simpler means of voting—polling places that don’t vary or confuse voters and a simpler mailing process, which will be proved a safe means of balloting after this election—moving closer to the true meaning of democracy.
Next week well have Part 2 of Union, the story of a cross-country road trip by two college graduates talking with Americans on all sides of the political circle. This story about polling around the world seemed to fit in better right now.