Did you vote last week?
I did. I feel very strongly that it is vital that we all use our vote. So many people have fought, suffered and even died so that we all have the right to cast our vote without fear and being confident that each vote will be counted accurately. A favourite quote of mine comes from the Tom Stoppard play, Jumpers, when the central character proclaims, “Democracy is not in the voting, it’s in the counting.”
On Thursday, arriving to vote, I realised I had not brought a pencil as instructed, so asked the marshall if I could use a pen. He said I could, and then asked if I was interested in why we traditionally use pencil.
He explained that in past centuries, those voting always used a pen. At this time it was a pen that needed to be dipped into a well of ink. Consequently, when the ballot paper was folded the wet ink would make another cross on the paper, thus spoiling the vote. Therefore, it was decided that a pencil would avoid this problem. Interestingly, during the General Election campaign of 2017, some voters wrote to the Electoral Commission to express concern that pencil marks could easily be rubbed out making papers susceptible to fraud. Therefore, it was decided that either a pen or pencil could be used to cast a vote. Others have since pointed out that it would be just as easy to mark and invalidate a ballot paper using a biro!
Democracy is certainly in the counting, but it is also in our trust of the many ordinary people, from all walks of life, who volunteer to carry out this vital work. It is crucially important that we protect the hard won freedom that we have to express ourselves and hold politicians to account through the ballot box.
Warm (I hope it will be!) wishes,