We had a federal election here on Saturday. Voting is compulsory in Australia, and while some people in other countries think that’s terrible, the truth is, you don’t HAVE to vote — you just have to turn up to vote and get your name ticked off. Once you’re given your ballot slips to fill out, you can do whatever you want — write nothing, do an informal viote (ie fill it out wrong or incompletely, or whatever. You just have to do your duty and turn up. Otherwise, unless you have a good reason (illness, religious objections, etc) you will be fined.
The polling stations in my area are mostly primary (elementary) schools, and when you turn up to vote, it’s a bit like a fete — there are kids running around and playing, and games taking place — all quite impromptu.
The people handing out how-to-vote pamphlets are not allowed on the premises or in the schoolyard — they have to stay outside on the footpath, so going to vote ends up being quite a lay-back, friendly affair.
There might be music playing, or the kids might put on a show, and the schools and the parents’ organizations generally use the occasion to raise a bit of money, so there are cake stalls, produce stalls, plant stalls, and more. Some schools even advertise. . .
One year I bought a jar of the best marmalade I’d ever eaten, and though I know the parent who made that has long gone — their child would have finished school by now — I still live in hope of finding another such wonderful jam. But the stall most of us look forward to is the sausage sizzle.
It’s just a sausage in a slice of bread with maybe fried onions, mustard and/or tomato sauce (ketchup), and as they’re being sold on election day, they’re called “Democracy sausages.” The name is just a bit of a joke, really. We Aussies love our sausages (also called snags) in bread, and they’re often sold as fund-raisers. You might find the Lyons club, or a bunch of Rotarians or a church group running a sausage sizzle on a Saturday morning in the main street of a country town, for instance.
Yesterday a couple of dads were manning the griller and some mums and a few dads were doing the assembling and selling. And the lines for the “Democracy Sausages” were longer than that of those waiting to vote. It all makes for a very pleasant voting experience.