Queuing in the rain, recycling several trees worth of leaflets, getting disowned by your family for voting the ‘wrong’ way: election day isn’t universally lovable, but there’s still something special about exercising your democratic right.
The UK has been starved of democratic action since local and mayoral elections were postponed in May 2020, so now parliamentary elections in Scotland and Wales local elections across England the Hartlepool by-election, and the London mayoral election join an ocean of political decision-making, perhaps unrivalled in modern times.
Here are a few things we’ve really missed about trotting down to the polling booth…
1. Reading manifestos
Famously, not everybody does this, but in most elections, there’s at least one candidate not taking everything completely seriously. We’re not going to name and shame – but joke candidate manifestos make a refreshing break from the sometimes fusty political literature, and probably help drive engagement.
Even when reading the serious ones, it’s fun to be able to sit back as judge and jury, and say ‘OK, impress me’.
2. Getting worried you’re not on the list
Voting is not something we do often enough to get used to, and there’s always an underlying paranoia that, in the years since you last cast your lot, you might have fallen off the electoral register. There’s usually someone with a clipboard scanning for your surname, and we are never sure they’ll find it.
3. Feeling invested in the result
Though distinctly less true now than in years gone by, the news is traditionally something that happens somewhere else to other people. It doesn’t matter how disillusioned you are with party politics, if you’ve cast a ballot, you feel part of the process, and will feel at least a smidgeon of disappointment/glee.
4. Getting super judgey about campaign strategies
He did what? Which of his spads thought that was a good idea?
The campaign trail does strange things to people, and peacocking candidates are sometimes hilariously error-prone. From cringeworthy social media stunts to forgetting the mic was on, every cycle has its fair share of gaffes and electoral weirdness, and it makes for popcorn-worthy viewing.
5. Being scared you ticked the wrong box
We always worry that we left the hob on when leaving the house. And we always worry that we accidentally ticked the box marked ‘kill all kittens party’ 30 seconds after leaving the booth.
6. Chatting with the organisers
Elections do not traditionally bring out the best in humanity. Politicians do not rank among our most beloved professions, and social media allows rival voting blocs to insult each other more publicly than ever before.
Thankfully, the people who work in polling stations appear to be some of the nicest people on Planet Earth. We have no idea how they manage it.
7. Being relieved that it’s over
For some, voting is a patriotic duty to be carried out with hand on heart and tear in eye. For many more, it’s an irritation that they have to sneak in between work and the pub. Rest easy that your democratic duty is done for another cycle, and you won’t have to tolerate the other side’s Facebook ads for at least another few months.
8. Dogs in polling stations
It’s a whole thing. This is what social media was meant for.