Sunday 20 March 2011
Posted in La France at 10:50
I just had my first experience of voting in France. Today was the first round of élections cantonales, regional elections. Like in the States, public schools are used as bureaux de vote, polling stations. Yours is marked on your carte d’électeur, voter registration card. In France, you’re part of a canton, a “seat”. What I didn’t realize is that each seat is also subdivided into bureaux, offices. So I was surprised when I went to the elementary school, entered what I thought to be my canton‘s voting area, and was told that it wasn’t mine… I had to find my bureau.
After some searching, and wondering how such a small seat could have a half-dozen offices, I did eventually find mine. Then I was nearly led astray by an elderly woman whose actions I was following, figuring she knew better. She went straight to the table of candidate cards and to the polling booth without signing in! I too had gone right to the candidate cards and taken a few (I already knew you have to take more than one), but decided I had probably better try signing in first. So I went to the voting table, manned by four people: two women, with the registration rolls and empty envelopes, one woman manning the ballot box, and a man who held the voter rolls and had people sign once they’d voted. I presented my carte d’électeur and ID to the two women at the registration rolls. “Madame Stevenson Anne-Marie, c’est bien ça ?” “Oui, et c’est juste Anna,” I smiled. “C’est bon !” she said, marking an X by my name and passing my card on to the second woman. The second woman then presented me with an empty envelope, and passed my card on to the woman at the ballot box.
From there on I knew, roughly, what to do: put my chosen candidate’s card into the envelope. But what to do with the leftover ones? There’s no trash can in the polling booths. This is something we don’t encounter in the US, where we use punch cards that come with a different (and one could argue, more serious) lot of problems. So I folded the remaining candidate cards shut, left the booth and went to the ballot box. The woman at it asked, “Madame Stevenson, oui ?” she asked, looking at my voter card. “Oui, c’est moi,” I said. “Madame Stevenson !” she announced, which surprised me, and she opened the envelope slot. I put in my envelope. The man at the voter rolls announced, “a voté !” I nearly laughed but kept it to a smile, and the man asked me to please sign by my name. When I had, he returned my voter card and ID to me. There was a large trash can with discarded candidate cards by the door; I added mine.
There you have it! I’m glad to know what to expect for future elections. I felt awkward at this first one! As for the photo above, I took it last evening while on a walkabout hoping to see the full moon… which I never did due to all the clouds we had. You can see more photos of St. Barthélémy neighborhood at twilight there, starting with St. Barthélémy in the trees.