It has arrived—big and fat and grey. As a Swiss citizen and a woman, I feel an imperative to vote, no matter how badly. This particular October 18th vote elects our members of parliament and our cantonal representatives.
I carefully peel off the back flap and consider the contents: two voting envelopes, one voting card, one ballot paper, one ballot book (which contains 26 lists of candidates), and two instruction booklets (45 pages total).
Already feeling tired, I do a quick flick through the lists. Geneva’s not too bad as our quota is a skimpy 11 MPs. The poor Zurich people have to choose 35.
This time around, there seems to be no one I know—no neighbours, no former students, no hockey players. Careful consideration reveals a brick-layer, several militants, an astrologer, a feminist, a taxi driver, a naturalist, a TV technician, a dentist, a janitor, a lady-of-the-house, and a couple of wine-makers. The vast majority seem to be existing MPs, or people in more modest, boring, local political positions.
So, on with the vote. I choose my favorite political parties and I limit myself to the lists that give candidates’ ages. I then ask anyone who’s sitting at the kitchen table in my 5-minute voting window whether then have any pertinent information…something they’ve heard or read somewhere, a picture or a tone of voice they didn’t like; a good idea.
This line of enquiry is quickly exhausted and so you must take the plunge. Choose a list, cross out the names or the professions you dislike, double up with someone you feel might be good, write in the name of a wine-maker as you happen to be drinking a glass of wine.
This moves things along quite well, but, finally there are one or two names that you sort of have to guess at.
Finally, with a flourish and a strong sense of citizenry, you carefully sign your voting card, put your ballots into the colour-coded voting envelopes and lick them sealed, repack and stick down your untorn outer envelope making sure that you don’t accidentally send the whole she-bang back to yourself, and place the hefty unused information brochures in the paper recycling basket. Mission accomplished.
This intense political activity takes me back to a local radio interview that quizzed people in the streets of Geneva whether they thought long-term non-Swiss residents should be able to vote. One perky articulate woman said definitely not, as they might vote the wrong way.
I’m sure glad that we real Swiss know how to vote the right way.