Thursday, September 15, 2011

Electoral Roll

So I am going to start at the beginning.  My first real clash with Bureaucracy on my own.  I am sure there were some involving me that I was unaware of that my parents had to deal with, it can't have started out of the blue at 18, but this is my first ever clash.  It was not a good start to our relationship.

In Australia it is compulsory to vote.  You have to or you get fined.  In a staggering case of needless red tape and paperwork you also have to sign up for it. 

They are able to send you a letter and a pack of forms on your 18th birthday saying you have to enrol, which means filling out the forms and giving them back the details they just used to send you the paperwork. 

You also have to include proof of identity in case you are committing electoral fraud and signing up as people who are dead or animals, like on The Simpson's when Sideshow Bob becomes mayor (that is how it was explained to me and is how I explain to others).

So I dutifully filled out the forms and included photocopies of my proof of identity like a good citizen and promptly forgot I ever had to do it.  I may have mentioned it at school along the words "I can now control who is the Prime Minister" in  staggering misunderstanding of how politics actually works.

Three weeks later I was surprised when I received a package from the electoral commission in the mail.  I thought I had to wait till the election to vote and was confused as to why they would send me forms now.

I opened the package to find a new set of forms detailing how to register to vote.

Included was a letter apologising for the inconvenience but that they old forms had been sent to me by mistake and I needed to fill out these new forms.  As far as I could tell the old forms where green and the new ones purple, and there the differences ended.

I once again sat down filled out the forms and sent them off, and maybe mentioned it twice this time, "Silly government departments and their forms".  However it was not an interesting story yet so didn't get much airtime.  I mean it still might not be but there is a lot more to it now.

Three weeks later another package arrives from the electoral roll.  It is a new set of forms.  Still purple so at least they are the latest ones.  Apparently I had signed my name wrong.  It was on the line and my name, but it was just fundamentally wrong.

I was confused.  This form was the first one I had had to sign, they didn't have anything to compare it to.  Was it a condemnation of my very ability to write?  I was sure signing meant my name in cursive.  I asked my Dad if I signed things wrong.
He looked at me "What exactly you signing?"
I told him and he asked to be shown the forms. 
He looked it for awhile, "well it is your name and it is in cursive. I don't know what more they want. Maybe blood."

I asked my mum thinking Dad sign doesn't much, Mum is the one that signs the most and working in an office she sees loads of signatures. I'll ask her.  Her verdict was the same, it was my name, cursive and fairly legible.

I filled out the forms again, signed the same way and hoped for the best.  Maybe I just caught someone who was having a bad day

I was shocked when the fourth package came from the electoral roll.  Surely they couldn't still be hating my signature.  Maybe Dad was right about the blood thing.

No. Of course not that would be silly, my signature had passed muster this time.  What had not passed was my birth certificate.  It was apparently out of date.

I checked my pulse, and yes I was still alive and not a zombie.  A time traveller hadn't gone back in past irrevocably changing time itself and rendering it obsolete.

I sat down to think.  I was still alive and time had not been changed to render my birth invalid, how exactly did my birth certificate come to be out of date.  My sister helpfully suggested I was past my useby date and should go sit next to the garbage bin for collection.

I rang the electoral office and asked how a birth certificate could be out of date.  They laughed and said it was impossible.  I told them my tale and they said, "well can't argue with letters like that better fill out the forms again and send them off'.

I was annoyed by this stage.  So far I had to fill out three lots of forms and all had been rejected for no logical reason, reasons that could not be explained even by the people who were giving them to me.

I sat on the fourth set of papers for awhile.  One day a census guy came around, he was from the electoral roll and was going door to door to make sure everyone had filled their forms out and sent them off.

I told him my bizarre tale and he said, "well I have time I can sit here and help you with them to make sure they get through this time".  So we sat on the front veranda and filled the forms out, he signed them as a witness they were legitimate and I happily sent them off, problem solved.


Seeing the fifth package from the electoral roll sitting on the table after school threw me a little.  Surely it couldn't be a fifth set of forms?  That would be preposterous, the electoral guy had triple checked everything and even signed off on it.  It must be compensation for all the hassle.

But no, of course not.  It was a fifth set of forms.  No real reason given, just that the previous ones were incorrect.  I rang them up and complained.  If they were fact checking me and could verify information on the forms like that they should just use that to put me on the stupid roll and leave me alone.

I was told to 'calm down sir' and that I had to fill out the forms regardless of how many times I had done it in the past or face a $450 fine.  They told me they had no information about me on the files.  I asked how they kept sending me forms if they knew nothing about me, and how come I was on the census that they had access to but still couldn't find me.  They reminded me of the fine and hung up

I took the forms and burnt them.  Mum said I was being dramatic but I told her I was now a political outlaw living outside the system.

Finally my school held a period of class which was everyone over 18 sat down and filled out the forms.  I told my teacher the story and he made sure everything was correct, the Dean cam and checked and I made four other teachers check them.

All the forms got sent off in one big bundle and I was set.  I could now vote.

Since then I have voted twice and missed four due to being overseas.

So that was my first battle.  Who knows how long it would have lasted had I not put my forms in with the other 400 kids in my year.  I guessed the only way I got accepted that fifth time was due to no one really looking at the names of 400 simultaneous forms so let me slip through.

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