Thursday, February 15, 2007

Only a couple of hours left to apply for a postal vote ...

It’s the (seemingly annual) pilgrimage to the Electoral Office in William Street, just around the corner from Stan’s Cathedral to fill out a yellow absent postal voting form.

Today (Thursday) is the last day to hand completed forms back in.

If you’re going to rush out and fill one in, bring a friend with you to the electoral office who can sign the back of it. It makes the whole experience faster. And make sure that they haven’t signed any other postal forms ... there’s a limit of one each.

While many people still live and work with a fair degree of predictability, some of us don’t know where we’ll be from one day to the next. Across Northern Ireland, thousands of people catch red eye flights to the UK mainland and beyond each morning, to spend a day, a few days, or longer working away from home.

Yet, in my case anyway, these are often scheduled only a day or two in advance. Certainly not four weeks in advance! On March 7 I should be in London, maybe even as far away as India, or I could be back in the office if any of the potential meetings are cancelled.

So the need to categorically state where you’ll be, and when you’ll be leaving the country and returning (with times if it’s on the day of the election) is practically impossible. If you’re not on the first flight out, then your postal vote application will be rejected since you could vote before going to the airport. And if you land more than an hour before polling closes, you’d be expected to go and vote in person.

While the strict NI voting rules are there to protect democracy, they don’t really encourage voting. Is the system not actually making more and more of us bend and abuse the rules in order to exercise our right to vote wherever we end up in the global village?

Don’t modern times require modern rules to reflect modern (mad) living?

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