I love voting day and seeing people line up before the polling station opens ready to cast their vote. The veteran citizen of many an election, refusing the disability parking spot, preferring to walk proudly, deliberately into the booth accompanied by their walking stick and their electoral dignity. The first-time voter who checks with an older sibling or a parent to be sure they are going to get their mark to the right place on the ballot paper being congratulated for no longer being a virgin voter … these things give me a real thrill. Then there is the heart break of seeing ballot papers with no marks on them at all and several with the traditional male genitalia cartooned into place and the inevitable one or two that leave a comment about feeling that no one speaks for them and therefore no one deserving of their vote.
Handing out How to Vote cards in the morning and scrutineering in the evening once again after an absence of some years was a small and joyful act of this citizen, who once stood for a major political party twenty years ago. I haven’t been to a branch meeting or a fundraiser for more than a decade, and missed contributing to several election cycles. I needed a rest. Generously, the candidate, and member, who won the same seat acknowledged and thanked me for “loosening the lid on the can” that enabled him to go on and win it after me and in subsequent elections. The faithful who gathered at the local sporting club were mainly his family, friends and rusted on party members. I really appreciated the acknowledgement after all these years and in a week, where being seen and invisible efforts of mine are being made visible by others, it was another sign of the universe conspiring to remind and hold me to account to my roots and place, or more accurately, places in the world.
As the votes get counted and the maps get coloured in, the process of the big reveal, of what happened in the privacy of the booth, is like chlorophyll, the pigment that gives the plants their green colour and helps plants create their food through that glorious process of photosynthesis. Invisible to the human eye, coming to life under a microscope, chloroplasts, like every voter, have a huge and central role in bringing forth and sustaining a healthy planet. Voters bring life, breath oxygen into decisions and then together set the conditions for how we will all get to live in the coming years.
This election was for the State, the next one in a few months will be to form a national government. I am very excited about what will unfold. A slew of independent women candidates across the country will be lining up, especially in the regions, there will be memories and disappointments being translated into voting patterns and I am predicting we will be seeing ourselves reflected in the result that is more feminist, more focussed on the future, more compassionate and more diverse than we will ever have seen – because this is who we are – a kinder, more generous nation that understands climate, gender and racial justice is what will take us to next level humanity.
The Premier incumbent for my State quoted one of my favourite political quotes in his speech last night: “In a democracy, the highest office is the office of citizen” – US Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter. I agree with that and for those of us who are privileged to have a vote. I have always encouraged others to vote with those in mind who don’t have that privilege, children, young people, those who are outside of the electoral process, incarcerated, refugees waiting for their status to come through, future generations, other species who need our help, our global neighbours, and partners. When you vote it is not just for your hip pocket, your place or family – it is something much bigger, wider, and deeper. It is stepping in to the booth with gratitude for all those who worked to enable you to have the franchise, for me I think of the suffragists, for my grandparents who marched for the eight hour day, for those who passed referendum to include Aboriginal people and I take my pencil to paper with the future in mind, one which will deliver more equity, more inclusion and has the potential to unite rather than divide.
The role of the citizen is the foundation of any democracy, and I am so grateful to be living in a place where the transfer of power by the people is done simply, civilly and in public view. Voting day is when citizenship is made visible, but it shouldn’t end there. Every day we have the opportunity to exercise our citizenship and vote with our values in the way we spend our time, money, resources and behave in the world. You don’t need to wait for polling day to bring your energy to photosynthesis and breath the future in.