THIRTY DAYS! A scant 30 days to tell the world you are running for office! How bloody civilized! In the USA the campaign season never ends. One election is over and the slow news channels start tossing names to the wind for the next series of elections. Here, candidates by law have exactly 30 (THIRTY) days to pitch themselves. Friends of ours who are ex-pats in Ecuador told me the same rule applies there. Thirty days to tell us about yourself. if you can’t make a pitch in 30 days you shouldn’t be pitching.The concept was a little unnerving for me – especially on the 2 (TWO) election days. There was no little job I could do. No elderly folks to drive to the polls. No bars to roll drunks out of. No cemeteries to pull names off of. Damn, what is a Jersey Girl supposed to do? Well, what everyone else did. Go vote!
Candidates stood together chatting as a team in front of the polling places – even Ripley would not believe this – candidates did not approach a single voter! They didn’t toss a palm card at them or kiss their kids! But I am getting ahead of myself. Let’s talk about the last few of those thirty days.
The “list” that we were following did continue it’s door to door press. “Facsimile” ballots were distributed with an X through the right circle. Yes, I will admit I carried mine into the polling place with me. They also reminded people to come to the piazza on the Friday night before the Sunday election. You heard me – SUNDAY – the polls were open from 8:00 AM until 10:00 PM. Monday they were open from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Friday night was the last legal night to campaign. Saturday was the day when people were to think about what they heard, reflect and get ready to vote on Sunday. Now, can I attest that no one campaigned – nah – and neither would you ! I will tell you that the candidate that I knew best was home with her family on Saturday and insisted there was no campaigning.
Friday night I went to the piazza not knowing what to expect. A balcony above the square had a sound system, electronic keyboard and podium. The posters of the first list were up. It was drizzling and I thought who but the crazy American is going to stand in the rain, stare up at a balcony and listen to a bunch of politicians. The whole village – that’s who! Initially only a few cars pulled into the piazza and folks parked with the front windows facing the balcony.
An hour later the entire piazza was a drive in movie. Cars faced the show, windows down to hear the speeches and moms running out to get pizza and drinks to go. When the rain let up, people got out of their cars. If they liked what they heard they honked and cheered! This is a community that is totally involved in the political system. Enough words – check out the video.
Going for the early and often motif – I voted on Sunday. Clutching my certificate of eligibility to vote, I went into the school, found my district, handed in my certificate only to have an election worker stare at it, stare at me and demand my “documents”. I had no freakin’ idea what that meant but luckily had my italian passport on me. I handed it over, assumed an arrogant posture, and watched as the dude stared at my picture and stared at me. Finally, with a humpf he said fine. I signed in, was given a pencil and a paper ballot. I went to the two foot high cubical, put my X on the circle, wrote in Mancini, folded the ballot and stuffed it in the ballot box! Yeah, how cool is that, you actually get to stuff a ballot box. By the end of a rainy Sunday about one-third of the eligible voters had voted. About fifty-one percent of eligible voters ultimately turned out. Can you imagine! This was an off cycle election and people actually came out!
Monday, I had to do something. It is impossible to just sit out an election. So I wandered down to the polling place to watch the counting of the ballots. In front of a crowd, each ballot is pulled out, shown to the room, the Sindaco’s name read and the consigliere’s name read. Those names are marked and the ballot is put aside. That means that political organizations can keep an accurate tally too. No hanging chads here – just a big X. I got bored after a while because doing show and tell with a couple thousands sheets of paper takes a lot longer than reading numbers off the back of a machine. To see the final results read the numbers in the Pontelandolfo News. http://www.pontelandolfonews.com/index.php?id=3357
A few days after the election I noticed new political posters going up. What in the hell is this? The election was over. They were giant thank you notes. Whether a ticket won or lost they thanked the voters. Now, how nice it that! Take heed American politicians there are lessons to be learned here.