Saturday, March 18, 2006

State Elections 2006

Today, for the first time, I exercised my right to vote as an Australian citizen. It's the state elections for South Australia and voters now have their say on who will be governing the state for the next few years.

It's a weird feeling, voting in my adopted country. I have to admit I did feel some butterflies in my stomach when I walked in to the polling place today. For the first time I do feel like an Australian and no longer just a "resident". I have given my say on how this State is to be governed and how it would affect my family's future here. It's empowering and at the same time humbling.

I also can't help but compare how elections are different here than in the Philippines. For one thing, voting is compulsory. Once you are registered to vote, you are obliged to vote in every election. Otherwise, you get fined for it. I still have to understand why this is so but it does give emphasis to the fact that each and every citizen here has a voice.

Election campaigning, at least at the state level, took all of a month. It's not the circus that it is back in the Philippines. Candidates still put out ads and send out flyers and probably hold a meeting or two. But there's no wall to wall billboards, no overt celebrity campaigning, not even a ticker tape parade. After the election, candidates are also required to bring down all campaign posters within a few days.

The actual voting wasn't even a hassle. The polling place assigned to me already have the lists of voters for the area. All we needed to do was just show up and say our name and we got the voting sheets. The lines were pretty orderly and we didn't even have to show any ID. And no indelible ink!

The voting sheet was a first for me too. It's sometimes confusing for first time voters to fill out the voting sheet and the government has even come up with an information campaign to ensure that people get it right. I sure hope I did.

Anyway, so I got involved in the democratic process. It feels good to see it actually working. The results should be out in a day or two. That's faster than the time it takes the indelible ink to wash off.

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