Saturday 20 March 2021

Election Sunday

Last Sunday, my and one other of the 16 federal states of Germany held an election for the state's parliament. I already told you that I was going to volunteer, and here is how the day went.

Getting up much earlier than what is normal for me on a Sunday wasn't hard, because I had something to look forward to. My place is closer to the venue where we were assigned to, and so my sister passed my way, and together we walked there in just under 20 minutes.

Entrance to the kindergarden. The yellow sign shows the covid rules that apply here.

The venue normally serves as a kindergarden. It's been several decades since I went to kindergarden myself, and to see the tiny chairs, low tables (and mini toilets!), toys and crafting materials was a reminder of those days, even though this was not my kindergarden.

The largest room - not open to visitors - with tiny chairs.

In Ludwigsburg, of the roughly 91,000 residents, around 59,000 were invited to cast their vote. They could do so at 59 venues all across our town. At each venue, a team of volunteers was responsible for the smooth operation and strict observation of covid rules.

Coming through the entrance door.

First stop: show your election letter and ID to have your name checked against the register by the friendly volunteer.

Second stop: the person behind the desk hands you your ballot paper.

Finally, you stand in the cubicle and make your cross behind the name of your choice. Then it's back to the desk, put your ballot paper in the large container next to the desk, and leave.

Two teams of three split the day in two shifts; voting was possible from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. After that, both shifts worked together at counting.

The area covered by our venue held around 1,100 possible voters. This year, hardly surprising, many more than usual opted for voting by mail instead of visiting an election venue. We had 322 votes cast, which made for a steady stream of people coming and going, without it ever being stressful.

After each person, we wiped the inside of the cubicle with disinfectant. The pens we provided were also disinfected after every use. At the entrance, hand disinfectant was offered, and we had extra masks ready to hand out in case someone forgot theirs at home.

Of the 322 cast votes, only 2 were invalid - those voters had made their cross behind more than one name on the list, when only one was possible.

Generally, people were friendly and patient; sometimes they had to wait outside, because only a maximum number of two visitors were allowed to enter the venue at the same time. Sometimes it took us a while to find them in the register, which meant another short wait for them.

An elderly gentleman, almost completely blind, came to cast his vote, and told us that his wife had meant to vote as well but was sick at home. It was admirable that he walked to the venue and back on his own, at his age and with his condition! But he and his wife obviously took their democratic rights seriously, and so did we.


After the counting (which was done rather quickly - it does not take all that long for six people to go through 322 ballots, even with double-checking), our team manager transmitted the results by phone to our town hall. The ballots were packed up, ready to be delivered to town hall later. 

My sister had brought a bottle of sparkling wine and glasses for six, and one of the others had made savoury snacks as well as muffins for all. 

It had been an interesting day, serious work but fun, thanks to the great team and the many good people coming to our venue.

34 comments:

  1. Interesting day. Very similar procedure to ours here, although I have been known to vote for options I have written on the paper myself. I also take my democratic rights seriously.

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    1. I meant to add - they are not counted locally here, the boxes for each area are taken away and counted together.

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    2. Voting for options that are not on the paper would make the ballot invalid.
      I don't find it easy to decide on one candiate or one party, as most of them stand for things I agree with and others I don't support, but I try to give my vote to that party that seems to be the lesser evil.

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    3. Yes, but when you are asked to vote one way or another on an issue such as "Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?", when you feel very strongly that the issue should not be the subject of a referendum anyway because we elect politicians to make decisions that are too complicated for anyone but specialists to understand, and just to ensure the public have no chance of understanding it they feed you a load of lies to throw you off the scent, then what else can you do but vote for both options and write a rude phrase on the ballot paper?

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    4. I can see your point there, and I still get rather upset when thinking about the whole Brexit issue.

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  2. Well done! I've only missed voting once (due to illness) since I became eligible to do so way back in 1968. Good to see others not taking for granted the right to vote in a free and fair election--something so many people across the world are unfairly denied.

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    1. That is one of the reasons why I find it so important to vote, because so many people across the world would be able to make a difference if only their governments (or others) let them.

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  3. Good for you and your sister for volunteering. It is so important to vote!

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  4. I must say I had never thought about what might go on after voting closed - sparkling wine and goodies to eat!!

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    1. I don't know if that is what usually happens after voting closes - it did for us :-) We knew each other already from our volunteering in context with our town's train station, so it was very much a day spent with friends.

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  5. I'm so glad you told us about it as I was wondering how it went for you. It sounds very similar to how it is done here but I don't think the ballots are counted at the same place you vote here. It sounds like you did your duty as a good citizen and had a good day as well!

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    1. That's certainly true, Bonnie - we did our bit and had fun at the same time!
      The ballots are kept centrally after voting, so that if anything seems amiss, a re-count can be ordered. So far, I don't remember ever having heard about that happening here, though.

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  6. How moving. An elderly man losing his sight determined to cast his vote in a free and democratic election ! To think that we cannot say thanks to the women and men who risked their lives all over Europe, just so that we could have universal suffrage.

    There is a back page interview with German historian Katja Hoyer in the March edition of History Today, a monthly magazine published in England.
    Why are you a historian of Germany?
    *I am a confused German trying to make sense of my country's past and its place in the world.*
    Which book in your field should everyone read?
    *Neil McGregor's Germany: Memories of a Nation.*
    Which historian had the greatest influence on you?
    *Hans-Ulrich Wehler.*
    What is the most common misconception in your field?
    *That Prussia was evil.*
    Asked which moment in history she would like to go back and witness, Katja says:
    *Napoleon's conversation with with Queen Louise of Prussia at Tilsit.*

    This interview and your election post made me want to reread the autobiography of my political hero, Willy Brandt.
    I have been looking at photos online of Brandt and Gunter Grass. In one of them Grass is standing in a bar with the American writer John Dos Passos: I would like to go back and listen to the two writers talking together.
    John Haggerty

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    1. Willy Brandt was a larger-than-life figure, much like Helmut Schmidt, who only died a few years ago. Both are still much admired in this country.

      Napoleon visited Ludwigsburg before he went against Moscow. Our then Duke Friedrich received him at the palace, and their conversation went more or less like that:
      Napoleon: "I need men for my campaign. Can you muster up 15,000 for me?"
      Friedrich: "Hmm... what's in it for me?"
      N: "I'll make you King, and W├╝rttemberg a kingdom! How's that?"
      F: "Deal!"
      Of the 15,000 men, a mere 300 returned. It was a very expensive crown. The room at the palace where the two men met - one of them close to 2 m tall and with a huge belly, the other one rather short and slim - is shown at every guided tour at the palace.
      Apparently, after Napoleon had met Friedrich for the very first time, he remarked "I didn't know that the human skin can stretch that much."

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    2. I could spend months reading about Konrad Adenauer, Willy Brandt, Helmut Schmidt, and indeed the Party bosses in the old GDR. The German landscape and culture, like Ludwigsburg, is part of the fascination.
      I liked *The Farewell: Brecht's Last Summer* which I have watched on DVD four or five times. That Brecht elected to live in East Germany is intriguing.

      Len Deighton, who lives in Southern California, says he listens to all German news, being a Germanophile. Deighton admires the way Bismarck established the technical colleges and a basic welfare state: Britain lagged well behind Germany.

      I liked your story about Napoleon meeting Duke Friedrich. In my youth the must read was Pieter Geyl's *Napoleon For and Against* which my history teacher admired.
      You know the story of an angry Napoleon meeting the archbishop of Paris?
      *Your Eminence,* said Napoleon. *Don't you know that I, I alone, have the power to destroy the Roman Catholic Church?*
      *Your honour, we the clergy have done our best to destroy the Church these last 1500 years,* the bishop replied sadly. *We have not succeeded and neither will you.*
      John Haggerty

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    3. That bishop was rather exceptional in recognising the truth, wasn't he!

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    4. Michael Voris (YouTube: The Vortex, Church Militant) thinks only the laity can save the church. So do other YouTubers: Michael J Matt (The Remnant), John-Henry Westen (Life Site News) and Dr. Taylor Marshall. Dr Marshall has a new book out which I mean to order, *Infiltration*.
      John Haggerty

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  7. Sounds a lot like election procedures here too - except for the additional corona safety measures... We have not had any election here in the last year. We have a general election coming up in 2022 though. Hopefully life will be a bit more back to normal by then (but who knows). I have voted in every election since I was first allowed to and usually on the day.

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    1. A general, Germany-wide election is held this year in September. Volunteers of this election were asked to sign up for that one, too. I haven't, because O.K. and I have our usual two weeks off that month, coinciding with the election. And even though I doubt we'll be travelling anywhere, I guess I'll be at his place at least for part of the time.

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    1. Dear Jill, now I wonder what you wrote! I hope you are well.

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  9. You are a good soul volunteering.
    I’m going to say something that probably won’t be welcome.
    You have a lovely face, I don’t know why you’re joining the tribe of the stereotypical German ladies hair cut and now planning to go grey too. It’s such a German lady hair pathway.
    I’m challenging you to consider embracing your gorgeousness , think Stefanie Powers. You’d look fab with longer hair grey or not.
    It’s none of my business of course but it seems such a waste.
    Don’t be a lemming x

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    1. Don't worry, Curly Club, I have never been known to be a lemming in my life. But I have always had very thin hair, and not much of it, and therefore short hair has always been my best option. Whenever I chose to let it grow for a while, I ended up not at all looking like I wanted to, but like a bad caricature of myself.
      And my face will still be pretty much the same with grey hair :-)
      Stephanie Powers was (and still is) an exceptionally gorgeous lady - face, hair and all, but the two of us have nothing at all in common.

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    2. You underrate yourself, you are beautiful ! But I understand about thin hair. If mine wasn’t curly I’d probably need a wig. Thank you for being so gracious about my rude comment.
      So it’s evident then, you are beautiful inside and out.

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    3. You are so right Curly Club, she is indeed a beauty inside and out.

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  10. Good for you contributing to the democratic process. In May we have council elections in our town and for the first time ever (due to Covid) I have chosen to vote by post. I will miss the encounters with the neighbours when we would stroll down to the polling station at the local primary school.

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    1. Many have chosen to vote by post, for the same reason as you, L. In previous years, families often made Election Sunday a special day, with a family outing, meal at a restaurant and so on. Not so this year!

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  11. Hope you had a good birthday. I missed commenting on that day. We share the same day, I was 70 this year and my 14yr old grandson made me a birthday cake. The picture in on my blog, pastorswife69.com although as I said I am now 70.

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    1. Thank you, and a belated Happy Birthday to you, too, dear Pat! It is nice to know we share the day. I had a good birthday, will report on my blog soon.

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  12. All the voting is done here by machine now. I miss the paper ballots and filling it on by hand. You should look it up on the news about a new law passed here in Georgia regarding voting, seems as if it is against the poorer more urban voters. Perhaps President Biden will step in, we shall see! And I see from your answer to comment above what I was about to ask you, if you had a happy birthday!

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    1. It seems odd that we still use such a huge amount of paper for administratvie processes like elections, when even such security-sensitive things such as banking are done mostly online. As I earn my livelihood in data protection, I very well understand the risks in digitalising everything, but working with paper poses is not without risks, either.
      Yes, I did have a happy birthday, and am about to finally post about it!

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  13. A lot of people are volunteering in many different ways now, aren't they? I hope it will continue after the pandemic is over. I must say your voting station looked a lot cheerier than ours with that beautiful painting on the walls.

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  14. As our venue is normally a kindergarden, I was expecting something cheerful with plenty of bright colours. It really was a good day! I wanted to do that for years, so when I finally had the chance, I grabbed it!

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