Sep 6, 2007

I voted

It's local election time in Norway. And I voted today.

Norway is a constitutional monarchy that holds elections in odd-numbered years. Every four years there's a national election, when they elect their parliament (Storting). The other every four years are local, when we elect our municipal and county parliaments. Apparantly, the deal with parliaments is that you don't vote for individuals, but for parties. So no running on the "independent" ticket here. You have to belong to a party.

As a foreign citizen who's been a resident of Norway for more than three years, I am eligible to vote in the local elections (municipal and county). As a foreign citizen who's been a resident of Norway for more than three years, I may not vote in national elections. Just as well.

So you know it's election year because you get a pre-printed voter's card in the mail (They Know Where You Live), which you bring with you when you go vote. (Don't ask me what it says. I saw my name and address, that was good enough for me.)

This year, 2007, is a local election year (which is why I got my voter's card), and they've been allowing early voting since mid-August. Election day itself is actually Monday. You can tell, because the wine monopoly (the government owned and operated sole liquor retailer in Norway) is closed that day, an otherwise perfectly normal business day. So anyway, I went to our local library, set up as the early-voting poll for my part of town, and voted.

Voting in Norway is a casual and quiet affair, and still quite manual. No chads, no #2 pencils. You hand in your voter's card, get an envelope, and enter one of the booths with a hip-length blue curtain around it. (Close the curtain, moron.) Inside on the back wall, are rows of pre-printed lists for all the parties running in this election - printed on white for the municipal election and on blue for the county, some twelve or 15 lists each. Choose one (oh, God) for municipal and county each (oh, God, _two_ choices out of 30!) and put said chosen lists (only one of each, mind) in the envelope provided. Sealing is optional.

The lists are a list of names in sans serif type. Nobody knows who these people are. Well, I don't. Now, there is some system or other about crossing out names (oh, not any more) and ticking off names to give them extra weight and even adding in names from other parties (that's new). It's bad enough I have to figure out which of the umpteen parties to vote for; I don't have the energy to go beyond that. I have no clue and don't care and am just so incredibly grateful I was able to choose between the baker's dozen of sheets/parties for municipal and the ditto number of sheets/parties for county. And I did seal my envelope.

I handed my sealed envelope back to the lady who had initially given it when I gave her my voter card. I also handed her my ID, which is a new procedure this year. Also new (to me, at least) is the bar code reader. I almost whipped out my debit card because it sounded like I was shopping. She then stuffed my envelope through the slot into a sealed box. And at that point I realized I should already have left and not hung around.

You may think I'm not taking my democratic rights seriously enough or something, but truly, you should be impressed. I managed a feat that baffles even many Norwegians, to the point that more and more of them have simply given up. They stay home.

PS: It took me less time to vote than to type this blog post.

5 comments:

alice said...

I think part of the problem with places that have low voter turnout is that people have somehow come upon the impression that voting should be easy. It's not.

I'm very involved in local politics, and yet I have to do research before I go to the polls -- sometimes a LOT of research. In the weeks before an election begins, the election commission publishes a copy of the ballot so that voters will know what to expect. I take that and look up each person, position and issue, so that my vote will be informed.

It does require some time, but what's wrong with that?

Keera Ann Fox said...

Out of curiosity, I did that for California's last election. However, in Norway, we do not yet have a neutral "both sides + the facts" web site to go to to read up on the issues like they do in the States.

And there is no "both sides"; there are 7 major ones and just as many minor ones, thanks to all the political parties here, and then you have consider coalitions: Who'll bed with who to get a majority government. Sometimes the "partner" is such a turn-off, an otherwise popular party loses votes.

alice said...

That doesn't sound all that different from the primaries we sometimes have. Like right now, Chattanooga is involved in a local special election (to replace a State Senator who resigned) and there are currently 9 candidates in the primary (there were 10, but one has dropped out). Once we get past the primary, there could be just two candidates left -- one democrat and one republican -- or we might have to contend with any number of independent and third party candidates who could jump into the race (some of which might be serious candidates, while others might just be kooks). There's no telling until the filing deadline has past...

Keera Ann Fox said...

Still, I think it'd be easier to sort through (and ultimately vote for) 10 individual people, rather than 10 parties and their respective groups of representatives. But you are politically interested and active, and I'm not, so this is my impression from the comforts of my couch. I vote on a whim, and for the intervening four years pay no attention. My sole political priority is avoiding commies and fascists. The rest do a good job and nothing they have done has affected me personally so far. I'm not in school, on welfare, running a business, commuting to work, or elderly.

And that is the sad and boring truth about the current crop of political parties here as in the US: I can't tell the regulars apart. One is as good as the other.

alice said...

Or as bad, unfortunately.