Don’t mix religion with politics — a voting experience

It is a funny thing that as the week goes on the weight of it gets lighter and although I still have to shake off tiredness there is something of a bounce as we clear ‘the hump day’.

Ciara is in ‘the learning to drive’ season and hitched a lift this morning with a friend who ‘just passed’ leaving me a little freer. I thought that may give me the time to vote. It is voting in the English County Council elections today.

Going to the polling booth always instantly connects me to Northern Ireland (NI) . I recall as a child that my mother and grandmother would go together to vote which gave it a sense of occasion. For years I misheard the word vote and thought they said, “They were going to boat.” I hadn’t an idea what boating was and it became all the more mysterious as children had to wait at the gate and were not permitted entry to the polling station.

I found this puzzling as the polling station was in my school. It seemed a day of things in reverse, children not permitted entry to school yet adults were. Add to this a heavy armed police presence, candidates and their supporters, I felt like I was missing out on something.

When I did go to vote at 18 I was excited about the experience as if I was going to meet someone or thing only to be met with my own hand marking the ballot paper.

In England, you do not have to bring any identification to the station which totally bemuses me as in NI you had to have official documentation and your card to prevent that almost entertaining sounding act, ‘Voter impersonation’.

I feel a freedom, saying no, when someone asks, “ Do you have your card?”

In England the parties often have ‘counters’ on the door, these are people who want to know who you are so that they can know who votes in the area. I always decline again due to the ‘privacy of my vote’ instilled in me by my Northern Irish experience.

A wry smile always appears on my face as I walk past the sign declaring ‘Polling station’ with the sign behind it displaying church services. They always said, “ Don’t mix politics with religion” but again that was NI and this is good old Blighty.

g.