Sunday, June 14, 2009

Last Sunday I voted for the first time in France. Not for lack of wanting to, more for lack of knowing the French system.



Moving from one country to another is really easy when you're a European citizen. But exactly this - being a European citizen - also works in your disadvantage - everybody thinks you know how things work or are supposed to work because you're from Europe. Trust me - you don't.

When we wanted to register for the European elections in March 2004, we were told we were too late! Registration deadline was December! WTF? Germans can register up until a few weeks before; and don't need to register at all for German elections; being officially registered makes you eligible to all elections. In France you need to register for the elections, even the national ones – and you do this at the same place where you need to register when moving there - so why not combine this?

And while I'm on this topic, where is the logic of allowing me to vote in regional but not in national elections? Why force me to vote in an electoral district I’ve only lived for 16 months before leaving for France? Bite me!

But back to last Sunday. Sunday? Why not Thursday? Like the Dutch or British?

Ok, ok – back to last Sunday.

Before heading out, I made sure that we had both our passports and election cards (as in I was carrying them) with us and checked the address in Google Maps. Google Maps wasn’t accurate, telling me a/the distance was 700 meters while being 400 meters max. and b/to turn left where we had to turn right.

We still made it though :-) There was a guy checking the cards and while handing our cards over to him, I said that we needed his help, because we didn’t know how the process was in France. Ok – so I lied – a bit, I didn’t want to believe what my girlfriend had told me.

The guy saw the cards “oh, européennes, c’est compliqué” (Europeans, that’s complicated) and went onto explaining; the only complicated part was that he needed to see our passports, that was it. He patiently explained how to proceed and when I turned to G asking her in German “did you get all of this?” he explained all again in German.

There was a table with all the flyers of the parties participating in this election. You were to take one or more of them with you into the cabin. There you had to fold the flyer of the party you wanted to cast your vote for into a teeny tiny envelope and put it into the ballot-box.

Did I mention the only people in that room were us, the people helping with the election and an older citizen who came in shortly after us and who had refused my offer to pass in front of us? Nevertheless I almost choked when guy #1 called to his colleague down the hall “eh Jean-Luc, voici deux européennes qui n’ont jamais voté en France” (hey Jean-Luc, here are two Europeans who’ve never before voted in France) and that he should help us with any questions we had.

Because I knew which party I wanted to vote for, I only took one flyer with me. G said, we should have taken flyers from the other parties too, now everybody knows what we voted. Everybody = 5 people ;)

The ballot box had a counter which is how I knew we were voters #20 and #21. Before putting the envelope in the box though, we had to sign a list and our still virgin election cards received their first stamp.


I’m quite happy, yet still surprised, that the party I voted for (an alliance of several parties called Europe Écologie) came in second place in my town and even in my department. The turnout was extremely deceiving with only 32% (national turnout was 40%)

Looking at the detailed results, there’s one thing confusing me – if we were only to put in those flyers into the envelopes and the cabins didn’t provide any pencils, how is it possible that some voters voted specifically for a certain person?

As I learned via Facebook that other election offices were providing electronic devices for voting, I’m sure the procedure will have completely changed until the next election.

All I’m waiting for is access to detailed figures from all countries to get really geeky with statistics :)

Originally posted on eurOut.

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