There are ways
and means of clouding the issues, of course.
First and foremost you need to
phrase the questions in such a manner that your average voter won’t understand
what is being asked of him. Her. Other.
The first time I voted in Italy was in a popular
referendum in the summer of 2011. The difference between a popular
and a constitutional referendum is that in the former you vote "Yes" to
abolish the law under discussion, whereas in the latter you vote "Yes" to
support it. So if you really wanted to say NO to Berlusconi and his favourite
laws, you had to put YES on your ballot sheet. Also, ideally you should have
been aware of the name, number, paragraph and subsection of whichever law was
being referred to. The papers had been full of diagrams and explanations for
weeks, but there was so much other more riveting news to absorb that one had
tended to skip the legal stuff and head for the juicy bits
was concerned, there was never a lack of juicy bits.
Thus I found
myself heading off to vote that summerbearing a stick-it note with "NONONOSI" scrawled on it.
Or perhaps it was "SISISINO", I really don’t remember. My main worry was not
getting to the church on time, since not only was it rush hour, it was also
none too clear where, after a lifetime of moving house and country, I
was supposed to be registered. Under my maiden name.Over forty years
of marriage, two children and five grandchildren, but I am still not permitted
to use my married name on any official document in Italy.
I drove out to
the borough we had inhabited way back in the seventies where, according to
Rome city council computers, I still resided.
I know better than try to argue
with a Rome city council computer and I most definitely knew better than to try
to argue with one of its computer operators. Eventually I reached the
designated secondary school way over on the other side of town just before they
closed the polling station.
When I finally drew up in a cloud of dust,
(we do dust in Rome - especially at that timeof year,)
outside my not very local and not-at-all friendly polling booth with just seven
minutes to spare before they closed, parked on top of two police cars thereby
blocking their escape route for what I hilariously had thought would be a mere
70 seconds, (just enough time to place My Cross against all the opposite answers
to what I was voting for,) it was to be asked, with much sucking of pencil and
no little embarrassment, whether I knew where the letter "J"
was positioned in the alphabet?
And do you know
what? I did. I really did.
Between "I" and "K", I answered
with some pride, Whilst looking anxiously at my watch. Three minutes down and
four to go.
Ms. Voluntary Pensucker starts over again from A and flips
her way laboriously through to Z, Swearing audibly. Just her luck. Three
minutes (by now) to closing time and she gets the foreigner called Jackson.
Maybe, she said
hopefully, they stuck it at the end? With the zebras and zippers.
this time starting from the end and reading backwards.
You should know
that the letter J does not figure in the Italian alphabet. Kiddies in play
school go straight from I for Illiterate to K for Kleptomania.I mused silently, not wishing to disturb her
laborious train of thought.
O.K. Time's UP!!
Sigh of relief
Go home and
watch it on the tele.
course, I didn't have a tele.
explains everything. One tele, one vote. No tele, no vote. though in the
end it transpired that I was not going to help change the face of Italian
politics singlehandedly anyway.
The postal vote for the Brexit referendum on the other
hand, was a cross between Painting by Numbers and an Ikea self- assembly kit.
Two little boxes. Choose one. Eeny meeny miney mo.
Next take piece of paper A
and fold along line B. Insert in envelope C and seal before slotting carefully
into postbox D. A literary style reminiscent of a Delia Smith recipe.
For U.K. based
voters insome constituencies, notably
Bristol, you didn’t even need to make a choice, it was all done for you with a
picture of a pencil hovering over just one of the two boxes. The one for
remaining in Europe. Easy Peasy. There. Piece of cake. All the
intellectually challenged would vote to stay in because that was where the
hovering pencil indicated they should place their X.The Remainers couldn’t lose.
Well that worked
well, didn’t it?
So now we wait
for Scotland. I can see the graphics already. A kilted Scotsman building
an impenetrable wall of haggis and threatening any invading Englishman with the
wrong end of his bagpipes whilst simultaneously dipping his French croissant
into a melted Mars Bar.
Choice is highly
overrated, I reckon.
Sandra Aragona (alias Jackson) would love you to read the book :