The right (place) to vote

stemmesedlerOn my ninth year of living in Norway, I managed to keep my voter card in a place where a) I could remember and b) that was accessible. It was about time I cast my vote here for the first time. I debated against myself for a while: shame on me for having no clue about the political situation. I felt no less than a hypocrite.
It then occurred to me that nothing had changed in the other countries where I had exerted my right, so I decided to go for it because it is also a duty, right?

So I go to the nearest school or “Election office” which is up a muddy hill but conveniently close to where I live. I could have voted in advance like any respectable and organized mom, but I’m not that (well maybe respectable, everyone deserves that). No, I waited ’til the final deadline to do it: last monday.

I get to the place and I see two different signs each in front of a different entrance. In doubt, I decide to go with the sign that has the word “election” on it (the other one stated a simple “Welcome”). I come in and I see an open space with three tables, each one with brochures and two piles of papers: one green and one white. This reminded me of voting for class delegates; we were at a school after all, but these were municipal elections so it felt overly informal even for Norway. I thought to myself: wow – people must be so respectful about the secrecy of your vote that they don’t even need curtains!

A very kind man approaches me and the two other people who arrive at the same time. He proceeds to explain: “You have two lists, one green and one white…” After that, I didn’t understand anything. I sat down at one of the tables (I keep doing this: act first, find out later). I look at the lists of candidates and can’t recognize any of the parties; in fact I don’t see their names anywhere. I then scan candidate profiles only to find that the owner of my son’s kidnergarden is one of them. I’m thinking: wow this guy has 4 children, a barnehage in his basement, he is a doctor, a blogger and ALSO a politician?! Man, Norwegian schedules!!

Ok, so I check the boxes, one on each list and get up only to see that the line to the voting table (I’m calling it that because it’s the place where everybody went with their lists in hand) which was empty upon my arrival, is now 15 people long. I line up, ready to wait for as long as it takes to figure out If this whole thing is for real. After a short while, there is only one person in front of me. We have a problem: he is not on the voter’s list. Of course, I think, the one who doesn’t have his papers in order is in front of me… have you learned nothing my friend? OK my turn. I give my last name, which is almost never found on the first try. I suggest looking for the second initial. Still nothing: “I am afraid you are not on the list. The lady here will help you”. Arrogant-me was throwing thoughts like “Sigh – where did they loose my info this time?” (like there had ever been another time).

Very patient, the woman appointed to help me asks: “Are you a member of the church of Norway?” – Uh…(Excuse me – What?! Since when do I need to be a member of church to vote? I mean, I know the church is not separate from the state in Norway but given all I know about this country’s individual values, this cannot be true…)
“uh… I don’t know…” I reply.
“Are you baptized here?” she asks. “Uh… no…”
Then with a confused look verging on implosion, she tryes again: “Are you baptized in Norway?” –I feel like the antichrist himself: “…No”, I say.

The old man who explained the lists at the beginning, who was probably watching me shake my head and blink incessantly, put his hand on my shoulder like a hero and says “May I see your voter card?” I give it to him, my eyeballs traveling from-him-to-the-card-to-him-to-the-card-again. Then he goes “oooooh, you’re at the wrong place. These are elections for Church representatives. You need to go to the other entrance. Come, I’ll show you.” Right, the “Welcome” sign.

Everything went back to normal as soon as I entered that other room. There were polling booths with curtains, there were party names on ballot papers, and there were ….drumroll… ballot boxes!

I go in, pick a green and a pink ballot and make the neatest cross on the candidates that satisfy my very personal criteria. I make it to the box, there is just one last question: “Do you have an ID?”

“Of course!” I say, thrilled to have the answer. Surely, my French driver’s license will do, so I extend it to the boy in front of me who looks like a rapper. He looks at it and adds: “Uh, do you have an ID with your Norwegian ID number on it?” –Silence. I look frantically into the bottom of my XL purse perfectly aware that I will not find such a thing. Then he says: “It’s ok, go ahead”. Breathe out. With shaky hands, I struggle to slide the ballots into the box but I finally make it.

There is a (static) marching band playing outside. I meet my neighbor, greet him as quickly as possible, and walk the 500m to my house reliving it all… a smirk turns into laughter: this has to be my next post!

PS: I’m back 😉

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