Will My Vote Count?

I am proud to say that, since I was twenty-one, I have voted in every election. Correct, I haven’t missed one. Voting is a privilege that I don’t take lightly. Perhaps it is because I grew up in a political family. When fall came around, I was licking stamps and stuffing envelopes. Phone banks are part of my DNA.

Now, sister Susan and I may have posed for this press kit shot BUT, I learned to work the phones when I was old enough to talk. Other kids went to football games, I went to political fundraisers. I must admit, when election time comes around I still miss the electric charge of working on a campaign. The after parties were pretty charged too. Of course, spending the summer and fall in Italy does put a little damper on electioneering activity.

Democrats Abroad is a great organization and I have phone banked through my computer to help with voting from outside of the country. They also hold events, classes and get togethers.

Voting from outside the United States should be a simple process. I usually go through the Democrats Abroad website to https://www.votefromabroad.org/ and get an absentee ballot emailed to me. Vote from Abroad is a non-partisan service. You can also go to New Jersey’s home page and search for the documents. I found it easier to use Vote from Abroad. For New Jersey residents here is the process –

  1. Fill out the on-line information.
  2. Wait for an absentee ballot to be sent to you via email.
  3. Print out the ballot and all the forms that come with it.
  4. Complete the ballot.
  5. Sign the electronic transmission sheet.
  6. Sign the Waiver of Rights to a secret ballot. Obviously, if you email your ballot back people will know who you voted for. I voted for Governor Phil Murphy! Doesn’t bother me if you know that.
  7. Scan all the documents and email the package back to the email address you received for the County Board of Elections. I did all that on October 7, 2021.

The only thing that is squirrely is that legislation from 1995 that was amended in 2008 declares that I “pledge to place the original voted ballot in a secure envelope, together with another required certification, and send the documents immediately by airmail to the appropriate County Board of Elections”

Sending mail from Italy guarantees that no one will get it. Or if they do get it, it will be a year or so later. I can attest to this since I have sent birthday cards from Italy that no one got. Forget postcards – they get eaten in transit. When we voted in Somerset County my ballot was always approved. I would call and be told not to worry. This year I called Mercer County and was told if they didn’t get the very slow snail mail copy by the week after the election my ballot would be tossed.

Panic set in. On October 8, I googled FEDEX and found an office in Campobasso. With our packet in hand we raced to the city, found the place and I ran in. Gasping for breath, in my only passable Italian, I told the clerk I wanted to get my ballot to New Jersey quickly.

Where is the label, the clerk asked.

Can’t I complete a label here?

No you have to pay from your computer, print out the label and complete the package.

This is a print shop. You have three computers. May I use one, print out the label, pay you and you FEDEX this ballot to New Jersey?

No. You must do it at home.

Why.

Bo.

I got back to the car about ready to explode. Hmm, I might have exploded. We raced back to Pontelandolfo and hoped the Ufficio Postale would still be open. I mailed the package and paid extra for tracking. Ha Ha.

Then I did what any good politicians daughter would do. I contacted my Assemblymen and Senator. My vote is important and I wanted to know what could be done to insure it would be counted. Senator Shirley Turner called Mercer County and was told the ballots would be counted. I love Senator Turner! Yeah! But I’m still worried.

As of today, my ballot was received but not accepted. I’ll check the day after the election. You are probably thinking it is only one vote. One vote can change more than we realize…

Ci Vediamo.

Midge – midgeguerrera.com


My play, “E-mail: 9/12” is available at Next Stage Press

In March “Cars, Castles, Cows and Chaos” will be available from Read Furiously.

Language Schools Need Help

Have you every visited a place or met a person and just known that they would always be a part of your life? That is how I felt the first time I spoke to Nicola Schroeder and the first time I visited Alghero, Sardegna. Nicola and Angela Canessa are the founders of what I think is the best Italian Language school for foreigners, Alghero’s Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera. Over the years, Jack and I have enriched our language skills and cultural acumen by spending time in Alghero and studying at Pintadera. Knowing Nicola for years, I was taken aback by our recent phone call. The school was in trouble – big trouble – caused by the pandemic. No tourists equals no income from anywhere. During the pandemic, unlike bars and other businesses, Italian Language Schools are not eligible for any government assistance. That means all the teachers, administrators and support staff are not bringing in any money. Nicola was literally my first friend in Italy – literally my first friend and one I value – I would hate to see the school she worked so hard to build close.

Ever the organizer, Nicola has connected with other language schools throughout Italy to develop a collective lobbying effort and organization – Scuole LICET (Lingua Italiana, Cultura e Turismo). What follows is that story, generously shared with us by Nicola Schroeder.

During the spring of 2020, in the middle of Italy’s total lockdown, we (Pintadera) received a phone call from Roberto Tartaglione, a prominent figure in the field of Italian language teaching, author of significant and innovative textbooks, and decades ago the founder of an important school in Rome. Angela and I were delighted and flattered that such an important person was even calling our little modest language institution out in the boonies of remote Sardinia! He laid out his concerns for the future of Italian language schools. I remember him saying that we would be lucky if we got back to operating in the summer of 2021. At the time, it was probably end of April, we were convinced this would all be over by the time summer started. Little did we know…

In order to get the government’s attention as to our importance in the country, it was Roberto’s idea to join forces – us, Italian language schools up and down the Italian peninsula and on its islands. I embraced the idea and got other Sardinian schools involved. 

Italian language schools for foreigners are active promoters of Italian culture and language, those that come to Italy to attend one of our courses are the same people that visit our museums, our archeological sites, they rent cars, go to restaurants, stay in hotels or flats, they spend money! Yet, we, Italian language schools, promoters of tourism and the “italia” brand worldwide are not recognized by the government. Our category has not received government funding, despite having been shut down in early March.

Unfortunately, so far there are no real fully documented statistics on Italian language schools in Italy. We think there are about 200. I was in charge of researching and doing excel sheets of all the schools in Italy, region by region. There’s an association called ASILS which groups 43 of the older and larger schools, those that were set up in 80’s and early 90’s. LICET includes we smaller schools dispersed all over Italy, those that sprouted as the low-cost airlines started bringing foreigners to the smaller towns. We’re 50 schools now with an average of 350 students a year each, who stay on average 2 weeks. Official calculation by ASILS says that each student spends 1800€ in Italy including course fees. So, let’s say there are 200 schools and they average 200 students per year who each spends 1800€… that makes €72,000,000 in expenditure in Italy by Italian language students, It’s probably more, or was more.

ASILS schools claim their turnover is 75-95% less this year than last. LICET Schools are about 70% less. I think in general the larger schools are more desperate than us peewees. The big Italian language schools had lucrative agreements with American colleges and loads of Chinese students. These all disappeared overnight. I remember when President Trump pulled American students out of Europe, sometime in March, I was on the phone with my friend from Florence and she said that 24,000 Americans left Florence over one weekend and that would mean the city’s end, so much had they become dependent on the U.S. student income. 

LICET’s objective is to be recognized by the government, not only as Italian language schools but also as the promoters of tourism that we are, and receive subsidies to be able to survive. And we want to offer our expertise and contacts to continue to promote Italy, its language, culture and heritage. We would like to be part of the recovery plan.

Thank you Nicola for the update. The group has been working diligently to address the issue and be heard by the appropriate government agency – Ministero per i beni e le attività Culturali e per il Turismo. Here is an earlier article from the Italian daily paper – LA Repubblica. What follows is a translation of the crux of the story –

For this reason, the newly formed LICET association addresses the Ministero Beni Architettonici Cultura e Turismo directly, asking not only for support, but proposing a collaboration: “Our activities, scattered throughout the national territory, in large cities or small centers, are two hundred magnets capable of attracting foreigners and giving a strong impulse to the relaunch of that important tourism that is talked about so much in the country’s plans for rebirth. – concludes Roberto Tartaglione – Each school has mailing lists, contacts, small propaganda machines capable of enticing foreigners to return to Italy; every school has been doing this for years, just to develop its own business. Today is the time to do it all together to relaunch a market beyond individual interest.”

Call to action – First – like the LICET Facebook page. Then, why not send an email to the person who is in charge of the Ministry of Culture’s Facebook page – after you send a Facebook Message! Let the Ministero per i beni e le attività Culturali e per il Turismo know if you came to Italy to study at a school and how the schools help promote tourists. Let us put on our advocacy hats and help the language schools get some government help. The Ministry’s Twitter handle is #MiBACT. I am tweeting that they need to help the schools and you can too. Check out their website and send a letter. This is my idea not Nicola’s. I’m from New Jersey we leap into the fray.

Making plans for 2021 or 2022? Besides coming to visit me and Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo, enhance your visit by studying Italian at Centro Meditteraneo Pintadera.

Ci Vediamo

Midge

Political Season – Huzzah!

How can I not be excited! It it a political season and I am a political junky. Proudly as Democrats abroad, Jack and I voted in the New Jersey Primary absentee and early. Now, we get to vote again in the Pontelandolfo local election. Politics is in my DNA!

Rossella Mancini For City Council

Hoorah, we get to vote for Rossella Mancini, our cousin and the other force behind the Cooking in the Kitchens of Pontelandolfo program. Those of you that know my family or have followed me for a while, know that politics really is in our DNA. Tante anni fa, my nonno, with a group of other Italian immigrants, started the Flagtown-Hillsborough Democratic Club. My dad, John Guerrera, was a democratic icon in Somerset County, NJ, serving as Mayor of Hillsborough, on a variety of boards including the Board of Elections and Tax board, the Executive Director of the County organization and a political operative for many national and state wide campaigns.

Dad’s Head Shot for his Senate Run

That means when I was old enough to lick a stamp and close an envelope, I was involved in a bunch of political stuff too. It was addictive.

Politics in Pontelandolfo reminds me of the door to door campaigns that my Dad ran in the 1960s and 70s and that I ran in the 70’s and 80’s. It was a kinder gentler kind of campaigning and one that truly engaged the electorate. Here, campaigns by law are limited to 30 days. HEAR THAT USA ONLY 30 DAYS OF POSTERS, PHONE CALLS AND ADVERTISING. What a welcome change.

Rossella, accompanied by friends and family has been visiting homes, talking about the platform of her ticket and getting honest – historically they have been honest – responses. Here, folks will actually tell you they will vote for you, or if not, who they intend to vote for and why. I have been with her on some of these house calls and actually heard a pal of mine tell her that he liked her a lot but was voting for his other pal’s son. Talk about a divergence from the American system.

Having lived in Asbury Park, NJ before they changed the form of government, I sort of understand how it works here. Every 5 years, someone who wants to be sindaco – mayor – asks 10 people to join him/her on La Lista. The 10 people on the list could become the consiglio, council-people. Here is the rub – only 7 will serve. The other three spots will be comprised of the minoranza – people from the loosing tickets who were top vote getters for their ticket. Each of the voters in a city of 15,000 people or less – we have way less – only get to vote for one person. The cumulative total of all votes cast for people on one list, determines the winning list. Automatically that person who is denoted as sindaco becomes the mayor and the top 7 vote getters are on the council. The other three – out of luck. What does that mean? It means, if you want to have a seat at the table, you have to get more votes than other people on your ticket!

Now this is PC – voters in towns with more than 15,000 residents can vote for two people and one – by law – must be a woman! Huzzah! The law is called Quatarosa and recognizes how few women were represented in local government. It truly was an old boys club. The list that Rossella is on has three women on it.

There is another piece of the election that I find difficult to understand.  If I were a pazillionaire, I could swing an election. The most recent census says that Pontelandolfo has 2,288 residents, including children, and 3082 registered voters! WHAT!!!! That is 794 more voters than residents. Normally, about 1500 people – who are actual local residents – vote in local and federal elections. The rest of the registered voters could be young people working in other parts of the EU or some of the thousands of Pontelandolfese who immigrated to Waterbury, Connecticut or Montreal or Argentina. Shazam, it looks like they never purge the voter’s list. Absentee voting is not allowed. For a local election you have to physically be in Pontelandolfo, make your way to the polling place, write your candidate’s name in a blank and wander to the local bar or home to wait for the results.

What this literally means is, if I could charter a plane with my 500 best East Coast Pontelandolfese pals and they accepted my free ride so they could vote in the local election, one could change the outcome. Like I said, SHAZAM!

The other piece that is strange to us New Jersey voters, is that if a race is uncontested – only one list is formed – there is no election. Someone from a higher level of government will come in an appoint your officials. No uncontested elation’s here – even if second list is composed of smoke and mirrors.

There is so much I have to learn about politics, life, traditions and culture. Guess I need to hang out here for a few more years.  Meanwhile, this Sunday, I will be voting for Rossella Mancini for city council!

Ci vediamo! Vote early and often!

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Basta! Non Voglio Eolico! 

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Enough!  I do not want to see another ugly wind mill on one Southern Italian Mountain!  They are putting up more and more around Pontelandolfo, Casalduni and Morcone.  What I discovered is that the local community doesn’t benefit one iota from the ugly things.  I thought they could tax the landowner – who is getting rent.  Or the town got a piece of the revenue generated – or even a break on the electric bill.  Nada.  Niente.  Nothing.

Those of you who have followed me for a while know that I have been talking about the turbines for a number of years.  First I thought they were wonderful.  Than, I thought they we’re ruining the south’s chance to get a piece of the tourism pie.  I mean would you want to sit on the terrace of a charming agriturismo and stare at the whizzing blades and hear the ongoing whoosh of the colossal metal whirligigs?  Now, my anger has intensified – they are defiling mountain top grazing lands.  The mega corporations are the only winners.

My ire increased last summer when Jack and I finished a mini vacation in Northern Italy.  We drove on A7 through the mountains in Liguria and noticed high tension electric lines transmitting power but not one giant windmill between Milan and Genoa. Not one.   Staring out the windows I realized that I also hadn’t see one gargantuan whirling edifice in the hills surrounding Lago Como, any where in the regions of Lombardia, Toscana or Lazio! Hmm, the trees were flowing in the wind.  Perhaps that was an anomaly. Obviously, the wind has stopped blowing in Northern Italy.  I’ll bet those ski slopes never feel the slightest breeze.  The hills of Rome must cry for a breath of wind. Years ago cute Dutch looking windmills were used in Montefiesole, Tuscana for the salt production industry. But now, there obviously isn’t enough wind now to generate electricity or blow out a match.

We are tired of the disparity and don’t want to take it anymore!

The residents of Morcone are taking a lesson from the Dakota Pipeline.  On February 14th, they decided to peacefully stop the building of windmills on yet another ridge.  A mountain that for hundreds of years has been grazing land for large herds of white cattle and its rich soil farmed.  Stalwart citizens stood in the road blocking access to the bulldozers and mammoth drills.  Pleadings, negotiations and dialogue have been going on for years.  The mayors have gone to Naples championing the cause but no one seems to care what happens in the Province of Benevento’s mountains.

Saturday, February 11 environmental groups and local residents organized a sit-in on the mountains outside Morcone.  They wanted to draw attention to the abject devastation that occurs to a mountain by the savage and seemingly careless construction.  Complaints had been submitted to Comando Stazione Carabinieri Forestale di Pontelandolfo, Comunità Montana Titerno e Alto Tammaro the Carabinieri Command of Pontelandolfo and the Prosecutor’s Office of Benevento siting irregularities and asking for urgent intervention and suspension of work in progress. These arguments apparently had no impact.

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Photo by Pupo in Pontelandolfo News

So, on Valentine’s Day morning mountain farmers, ranchers and citizens stood in the way not of progress but of the degradation of the Sannio hills.

Pontelandolfo News  has a great article full of interesting yet depressing data on how the south gets screwed again – this time it seems by the politicians. (How unusual, she said with great rancor.)

American newspapers have not picked up on this political  travesty.
Errrrrggggggg.

Perché la Strada Più Comoda Per Andare A Votare È Chiusa.

Maybe it is because I grew up in New Jersey where political manipulation runs rampant.  Or maybe it is because I remember the Chicago of Mayor Daley.  Or maybe it is because at this point in my life I’m cynical and see corruption and conspiracy behind lots of doors.  Whatever the reason,something happened today that made me angrier than hell.

Today, Sunday, April 17 is voting day in Italy.  There is only one item on the ballot.  Thank you Wikipedia for laying it out – 

A referendum on oil and natural gas drilling will be held in Italy on 17 April 2016.[1] The referendum proposes repealing the law that allows gas and oil drilling concessions extracting Hydrocarbon within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the useful life of the fields.

It will be the first referendum requested by at least five Regional Councils in the history of the Italian Republic: all the previous 66 referendum questions since 1974 were required after collection of signatures of citizens. 

So this is green legislation, and doesn’t make big oil companies happy, I’m guessing skids can be greased.  Look at the skids greased in Washington.  Here is what pissed me off.  My niece is here and wanted to vote.  She needed to get a tessera elettorale – like a voters registration card.  Because of the election, the municipio was open. Now there are two ways to walk there – which is also how you walk to the polling place. One is the lower easy walking medieval viale – which takes un-athletic me five minutes. The second requires legs of steal, is up hill and longer.  Guess which road was closed? You got it, we walked the lower road and came to a temporary barricade that closed the road. Of course, we walked around it! Because we did not see anything wrong with the road, we continued on. A group of young men were right behind us. Eventually, however, we came to barricades that were a fixed between two buildings.  One of the young men leaped over it and offered to help us over it.  We were 30 seconds from the municipal building.  Since I didn’t want to give them hernias, we walked back the way we came.  There was no way I could walk up the other street.  Alex grabbed a pal and went on.

Here is my conspiracy theory.  In researching, before I voted absentee a few weeks ago in the USA, I discovered –

Il referendum è valido se si raggiunge il quorum ovvero se un determinato numero di persone si reca a votare.

That essentially means the referendum is only valid if a quorum of Italian citizens who are able to vote – actually vote!  So if car-less folks want to walk they can’t.  I mean they can, but is more difficult. If you want to easily access the municipal building you can’t.  So, less people vote and maybe then there isn’t the necessary quorum for the referendum.  I wonder if there are some types of road blocks to voting in lots of town? 

Here is a road block that happened to my sister and I. We got our absentee ballots and noted you voted Si or No.  Just like double negatives have peppered American referendums, we immediately thought – we don’t want those rigs off our coast we will vote no!  Oops, it is a vote to “repeal” the law so we would have to vote yes.  Even some Italians I spoke to here agree that if you are not paying attention it is easy to get confused. 

Just like the majority of windmills- which now predominant some vistas are in the south and appear absent in the north – it looked like most of the drilling is in the south. Hmm.

After I took a breath I thought, maybe it is not a conspiracy – maybe they repaired the road 4 months ago and forgot to take the barriers down.  I mean, Questa è Italia.

PS. My niece was told she couldn’t vote because she lives abroad and even though she was here in person, she should have voted absentee. One less body count toward a quorum.

Ci vediamo.

USA Citizens Vote While Overseas!!

With all the lunacy of the primary elections spinning and whirling around me, I knew that Jack and I had to be able to vote in this year’s New Jersey primary election.​  Since we will be in Italy in June and the mail from the United States to Italy is notoriously slow – I didn’t want to risk a mail-in absentee ballot. What is a political junky voting citizen to do?  

My pal George, who lives in The Netherlands, said that he goes to the American Consulate. Hmmm, do I have to go Naples?  Being a politically savvy chick, I knew just who to call – the Board of Elections!   What – I’m wrong?  I have to call the County Clerk?  Done. I called the Somerset County, NJ clerk’s office and discovered that U.S. Citizens who are out of the country can vote electronically!  Who knew?!

First stop –  Web site : FVAP.gov  Federal Voting Assistance Program 
A quick trip to the web site made me realize that it was not only possible but probable that I would be voting this June from Pontelandolfo!  Go Democracy – huzaah! 

Here is how it works – 

1. You must register and request an absentee ballot in your state of legal residence. Right – you can’t vote  in Oregan and then vote absentee AGAIN from Europe. You complete what is called the federal post card application – it looks nothing like a post card.  

Hmm, I thought, filling it out online looks pretty simple. POP, up came a privacy statement – click – I accepted the privacy act statement. That means people get to see who I vote for. Who cares – ask me who I voted for and I’ll tell you. 

The form took forever because once again the big zip code data base in cyberspace would not recognize my zip code. Flagtown has had its own zip code long before Hillsborough coalesced into a quasi community with a post office and zip code. I fought the system and then hung my head and used the Hillsborough zip code.

2. Print and finish your federal post card application. Easy. 

3. Next from wherever you are mail the form set to your local election office. This part was a little Squirrley.  You can only send it back on USA sized 8 1/2 by 11 paper. Then mail it in a number 10 envelope. Now, if you’re in Europe where the hell do you easily get the paper or the envelope. The directions say that using European standard paper you need to print the document at 96% of its normal size. On the website they then give you a template to make your own envelope.  You also need to note that you cannot have scotch tape on the envelope. So I’m confused, if you’re going to download an envelope and make an envelope do you have to find a recipe for paste?

Since we are still in New Jersey we will be hand delivering our 81/2 X 11 postcard. 

My ballot will be emailed to me. I hope I can email my response back. The county clerk office said I could. Wouldn’t it be great if all of us could vote electronically. 

But if you don’t get your ballot what can you possibly do? Guess what you can go online and using the federal rights in absentee ballot you are able to vote or you can pick up a hardcopy version from your nearest US Embassy or Consulate location. I got bored reading about it and hope we don’t have to do this. Apparently there are a number of questions that you’ve got to work your way through. Ugh. 

I am confident that I will get my ballot. I will do my dad proud and vote in the Democratic primary. I will do my home country proud and vote in the general election. 

Huzaah!

Not In My Backyard!

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Windmill Pollution – UGGGGGGG – They are Everywhere!

Cripes Midge, you are a liberal Democrat and always err on the side of the greater good what the hell do you mean NIMBY?  Why are all the f’n windmills going up in Southern Italy!!!  Energia eolica – power generated by the wind – is a grand and noble idea.  I just don’t want to look at another bloody giant windmill.  They are cropping up like weeds on every hill in Campania.  Last year, I saw the wind farms from afar and thought them noble and wonderful.  Italy was going green – great!  I made a cute video and gushed about the inroads Italy was making on renewable energy.  Here’s the link:  http://wp.me/p3rc2m-8h

The Associazione Nazionale Energia del Vento – ANEV has a great map on their website!  Pull it down and look where the windmills are!  Yup, not near the ski resorts in the rich north but in the south.  Come on – go look –  http://www.anev.org/

The European Commission – way back in 2001 – set a goal for Italy to obtain at least 25% of its electricity form renewable sources by 2010.   The Italian government targeted 12,000 MW by 2020. Does it all have to be  windmills? How about a nice solar field on the mountains they don’t obstruct the views?

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We SEE Them Rising to the Sky Near Our House and Shudder.

Now, even when we sit on our balcony in Pontelandolfo I see windmills.  More and more every month!  The hills are alive with the sound of bzzzzzzzzz.  According to a recent article in Il Sannio – our local paper will soon be enjoying even more.  http://www.ilsannioquotidiano.it/attualita/item/19265-eolico-multinazionali-scatenate-altre-richieste-di-autorizzazioni.html

La società di Bolzano ha depositato un progetto per realizzare un parco da 56 Mw tra Pontelandolfo e Morcone.

Now, leaving Pontelandolfo and driving south through Puglia, I’m staring out the windows looking for trulli (round huts with a conical roof) and all I see are fields of windmills.  There are so many on SS55  that I thought I was on the New Jersey Turnpike in the middle of an industrial zone.  I know, I know it is good for the farmer – he gets paid rent for the land.  It is good for the planet.  But the more I read it seems like it’s really good for the banks who have the notes, the businessmen who get the cash from the EU and of course the mob.

Windmill Puglia

Right Near the Highway – Behind a Rest Stop

Take a gander at this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2356879/Italian-mafia-turns-wind-farm-investment-launder-money-benefit-EU-subsidies.html  Here is the opening paragraph:

The mafia is ramping up investment in wind farms to launder criminal earnings and benefit from generous EU subsidies, a report by Europe’s policing agency has warned.

Attracted by generous EU and state handouts, and coupled with lax controls, the Europol analysis found that Italian  gangsters are increasingly  seeing renewable energy as easy pickings.

So all I”m saying is Not In My Backyard!

Italian Elections 2014 – The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

This super long link will tell you what is now happening politically in Italy.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/italy/10856075/EU-election-2014-Italys-Renzi-triumphs-as-comic-Grillo-loses-ground.html

I’ll tell you what I observed from my table in the piazza.

Sipping caffè one day and attempting to read Il Sannio, the local newspaper, I nearly choked on a headline.  Gli sconti per chi vuole spostarsi in treno in auto o in aereo (discounts for those who want to travel by train by car or by plane).  For folks to get back to their home towns to vote there are heavy discounts on travel!  There was a 60% discount on regional trains, 70% on national trains, 60% for travel by sea and the one that really kicked me in the ass – a 40 euro reimbursement for air travel.  Now my ticket on May first was a hell of a lot more than 40 euros but my niece in London could have flown over for the weekend for practically nothing.  Maybe they don’t do absentee ballots or they just like to have folks come home once a year.  This is definitely a good thing!

Another good thing is the short campaign season. I can’t find any on line resources to validate what folks have told me but it seems that candidates and parties can only campaign for one month.  Yeah!  No political BS for years in advance of an election.  Here, it is simply signs on the approved village sign boards and visiting folks in their homes.

This is the actor/comic Beppo Grillo's party.
This is the actor/comic Beppe Grillo’s party. He lost but had cute signs.

My landlord did get mail from parties but only one from each – not a thousand from each and no robo calls! How civilized.

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Notice the palm card – well 4 palm cards – with the X through the icon – in case you forget how.

 

What’s bad? A hefty percentage of the people I surveyed in Pontelandolfo were not going to bother to vote.  “Why – what does the EU do for me?”  “Politics – it doesn’t matter they are all the same.”  It was interesting for me to hear this laconic attitude.  Last year when the election was totally local it seemed like everyone in the commune came out to vote – and they practically did. When I went to the polls this year I was the only one in my district’s room.  Good news is I didn’t have to wait.  According to AGI.it – there was a nationwide drop in voters for this particular election:

(AGI) Rome, May 26 – Turnout in Italy for the European election on Sunday fell to 57.22 of percent of eligible voters from 65.87 percent in 2009, when polls also remained open on Monday morning. 

Here is some of the ugly.  One afternoon, I thought I was in Hudson County, NJ.  Men at the next table were listening to a recording on a cell phone and getting angrier and angrier.  They played it a couple of times – it was hard to eavesdrop with all that cursing but…  In a local race at a village whose name I didn’t catch, a candidate was calling people and literally threatening their jobs.  Being a middle aged white woman and obviously harmless, I asked what the men were upset about and they told me.  Some creep was calling older voters and telling them he would insure they lost their government jobs and never get another job unless they voted for his party.  My question was how the hell would anyone know who you voted for?  Paper ballots – you hand write a person’s name on paper ballots.  The villages are so small and there are so few folks that vote in a district that you can figure out who voted for you especially if they use the mark.  The mark?  You are told how to write the person’s name – I’m not kidding here this is what they told me.  Like, I’ll steal your cow unless you write me in as MiDge.  They tell the next old dude to write it midGe.  Since challengers get to review all ballots too……  This is pretty ugly. Uglier than anything I’ve heard of in NJ which can get pretty ugly.  How is that bridgegate scandal doing?

 

Yes, I voted. My dad ingrained that in my brain.  In Pontelandolfo we were only voting for the party who would send representatives to the EU.  We vote in the provincial high school – it is a specialty school for jewelry design.  Talk about good artsy vibes on election day.

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This picture was from last year’s election. Yesterday there wasn’t a line nor a policeman.

I went into district two, showed them my voting card, carta identita and like last year started to give them my passport when the election worker said “we know you.”  H’mm is that good or bad?  They handed me a pencil and a piece of paper.  Horrifying the pool workers, I started to put my mark right there and stuff the box.  I mean all you have to do is put an X across the icon of the party.  They pointed me to my secure screened space, I made my X and then stuffed the paper ballot in the box.  There are no hanging chads you literally make an X over an icon.  I am a good cittadini.  I vote early and often.  Look – I had my voter ID card stamped to prove it!

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See – I officially voted! Weeeeoooo!