Letter from Felixstowe: Election Day in the UK

Our polling station, Trinity Methodist Church, Felixstowe

Our polling station, Trinity Methodist Church, Felixstowe

Too close to call: by all accounts, the outcome of today’s UK election sits on a knife-edge with coalition-forming activities likely to result in the days ahead.

Clive and I voted this morning. I’m eligible to do so because I’m a resident of the UK, citizen of a Commonwealth country (Australia) and registered to vote.

The length of the campaign here is blessedly short: a mere six weeks, though everyone’s saying ‘It’s been going on forever! We’re so happy it’s over!’

As in Australia, once a government is formed, they’ll take office immediately, so different from the U.S. ‘lame duck’ period of 2-3 months between election and Inauguration, a gap that seems strange to me now.

Voters cast their ballots for a party and its local contestant, not for an individual Prime Minister; he or she is chosen by his or her party once the party forms a government.

Voting is not compulsory in the UK as it is in Australia (I previously wrote about Aussie elections) but for a number of reasons, including a clear contrast between major party policies and apparent popularity of the Scottish National Party and UK Independence Party, today’s turnout is expected to be relatively high.

In the 2010 national election, turnout was about 65%. A quick Google search tells me recent national turnout in Australia was over 93%, USA 57.5% (in 2012; down from 62.3% in 2008). I wish all countries made voting mandatory, as it is Down Under.

In any case, the process and content of this election has been thought-provoking, fascinating and all quite civilised. We will no doubt be up in the middle of the night watching the returns.

Waving the UK flag at Royal Albert Hall

Waving the UK flag at Royal Albert Hall

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Washington DC.

2 Responses

  1. Good post Carolyn. I’m afraid I don’t agree with you about compulsory voting though. I have voted in all the general and local elections and referenda in my adult life (spanning several decades now!), but I do believe that the right to choose includes the option ‘not to vote’ – bearing in mind that in our system you are choosing a local candidate on the ballot paper. I guess you are eligible to vote in three countries ?

  2. Thanks John! Yes eligible in three countries (since UK’s citizenship requirement includes Commonwealth). I do see your point about compulsory vs. the right to choose. You may know that In Australia the term ‘donkey vote’ is for when someone just casts a blank paper or writes in some rubbish nonsense — truly pointless (but avoids the fine one must pay for not voting).

    Cheers to the UK process — it is remarkably civilised 🙂

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