Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Exercising My Public Duty: A Day of Firsts...

So, today El 3atal, Teta, Jiddo, and AuntieBean all went and exercised our public duty by voting in the Parliamentary elections. of course, this calls for both reflection and comparison. The nice? thing about living in many different places in the US is that I've experienced a number of different types of polling places and processes which provides some interesting fodder for comparison with Jordan's system. I have to say it was an interesting experience, which I rather enjoyed.
General Observations
  1. Voting in Jordan is not just about selecting your next government. The ladies dress up and it's something of a social occasion. Friends are greeted warmly and well wishes are exchanged.

  2. The elections process is in desperate need of process improvement much like most processes in the country.

  3. It did not take as long, nor was it as annoying as I expected.

  4. Government schools are not as run down as I had feared (now the day-glo green and hot pink color combination isn't one I would have chosen, but...)
Specific comparisons
In the US, I voted in three different states. It was always interesting the widely variant differences that presented. Now, adding Jordan gives another dimension. So, here are the types of polling places I've experienced:
This polling booth was designed to resemble the old ones where you go in and write a name. Nowadays, you go in, pull a lever which closes the curtain and are presented with a panel of candidates. You touch the screen to light up the names you wish and then pull the lever again to record your vote and reopen the curtain. This was the system for my first voting experience way back in 1989 or so.
My second polling place had an old, old, old machine. Of the 2000 election hanging chad variety. In fact, it was called a butterfly machine as I recall because it has these weird little metal things you pulled across to note your vote. It also has all of the candidates in the middle a half-step off each other. In the election I used it (long before 2000), it caused lots of issues as you had to flip that paper over to vote for additional candidates and if you weren't careful it could mess up your vote on the first side. It was a mess.

The most recent election I voted in the US in was on a computerized system. Being honest I didn't like it as much as the first system. Here's a snapshot of it:

So, as you can see, the polling process in the US varies widely by state, county, city, etc. However, some things are common across the US (at least everywhere that I lived).
  1. No campaigning is allowed within something like 100 feet of a polling place (so no hordes of people trying to push their candidate on you. There aren't even any signs or paraphernalia allowed.
  2. Each voter is assigned a specific polling location, meaning one exact place you go to vote. This is assigned as part of the voter registration process.
  3. Lines at polling places tend to be long only during the identity checking and list verification process.

Now, in Jordan, by contrast, campaigning is allowed right up to the outside gate of the polling place. We had candidates' flock of young men and women handing us cards and leaflets (okay I really mean dumping them in our car) and such immediately outside the door. And, we joked (given the sparsity of parking) that a smart candidate would offer valet parking to his supporters.

In addition, you may go anywhere in the district to vote. That covers alot of area and I find quite fascinating. They had a computer set up to check that you were allowed to vote there. They took my ID, checked it, and sent me over to another table. I got my ballot there and provided my ID again. I took the ballot and went and hand-wrote the name of the candidate I had chosen (no I won't be telling you which one it is, teehee, but it wasn't Bill the Cat). Then I went out and slipped my ballot into the box (thus explaining the mystery that the room was called the Box for Ladies). To note that I had voted, the pressed a star into my ID and then cut off the corner (don't ask me, that one's a mystery to me too!). That was the whole process. The election workers were polite (several even spoke to me in English) and nice. All in all it was a pleasant experience. No better or worse than any election I've taken part in in the US. The waits are about as long and the process is abysmal, but, again it wasn't so bad that it made the wait untenable.

Happy voting!


At 9:50 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

And here I was thinking that Bill the Cat could turn this country around.

At 9:57 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wasn't Bill the Cat the guy who hung his photo as a box from tunnel ceilings?

Good on ya MommaBean! Neeyaaalik, ya true Urdaniyya!

At 10:36 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Woohoo! An interesting process to be sure. But, I have no idea how to find out who won! Teehee...

At 12:52 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Government schools are not as run down as I had feared"

you go to one school that was prepped for the elections occasion and media attention and you make generalizations about government schools? smart.

At 1:50 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Ah, so I was in the exception school (which certianly bore NO signs of having been spruced up for the elections). It was quite run down, not in fabulous shape, just not as bad as I had feared it might be. Perhaps, anonymous, you have something useful to add, rather than sarcasm. Thanks for coming by...

At 11:46 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why vote in an election rigged from the start.

"Staunchly conservative tribal areas are over-represented in parliament, with each MP representing 2,000-3,000 voters, compared with more than 90,000 voters per MP in the capital Amman."


At 8:46 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Anonymous, thanks for your comment. In answer, for the same reasons I would vote for a candidate who has no chance of winning. For me, voting in the election is less about the outcome and more about the fact that I care enough to try and make a difference. In fact, more than that, it is a right I have as a citizen. How can I complain about the people in power and then nothing to get them out (of course in actuality I don't really complain about the power structure so much here, but...)? Basically, if you don't vote, in my mid you lose the right to whine. So, I vote so I can continue to whine as I so desire.


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