Election day: A time to settle grudges

17:00, Aug 23 2014
Ballot box, Hugh Garland
WEIGH UP YOUR VOTE: Don't take it personally if my vote on the left cancels out your vote on the right.

Every time another general election rolled around, they would head off together to the polling booth to cancel one another out.

It was the bad old days of first past the post, when the two main parties were still all powerful. In our house, each had its champion: my father was a long-term National voter; my mother, a dyed-in-the-wool Labourite.

And so off they went to the polls, every three years, with mutual political nullification on their minds.

They could have both stayed home and achieved precisely the same result, of course, but each was fearful the other would sneak out and vote without them, and give the other side an extra mark on the scoreboard. So they drove off to do their democratic duty together, the red and the blue.

To my mind, this is hilarious. My parents disagreed on many things, and politics was just one more, but in this case, all argument was rendered redundant. After all, this wasn't a question of logic or emotion, but rather, simple maths. New Zealand quite rightly subscribed to a system of parliamentary democracy in which the opinion of one voter was deemed to carry precisely the same weight as the opinion of any other.

Consequently, if a couple who voted for opposing parties went to the polls together, complete nullification of one another's viewpoint could be achieved without wasting any energy on unseemly squabbling.

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Ever since I became old enough to vote, this elegant "one minus one equals zero" equation has informed my own approach to elections. To this day, I don't think so much of the tiny part I myself might play in getting my favoured party or local candidate into power, which is, after all, more a function of how many others choose to vote on the day.

I won't tell you how I intend to vote. But as an art-loving pinko leftie with a strong environmental conscience, you can be certain I will not be giving my precious election day ticks to anyone associated with National, Act, The Conservative Party or New Zealand First.

I will instead take great delight in rendering null and void the political power of a fellow citizen who embraces such parties. In particular, I am keen to cancel out a National voter. Why National, you ask? How long have you got? My disdain for this party is deep-seated, long-term, unswerving; their policies are an affront to much that I hold dear.

And so I will hit the polls on September 20 with annulment on my mind. Without a single unkind word being verbalised, a simmering grudge will be expressed as I tick my boxes, fold my voting paper and drop it into the ballot box. And as I do so, silently in my mind I will be reciting a mantra of grievances against the governing party that has been growing steadily over the past six years.

For continually putting free market ideology ahead of the public good, I cancel you out. For enacting laughably lenient waterway protection regulations, I cancel you out. For your refusal to substantially reform our liquor laws, thus perpetuating a great deal of social harm, I cancel you out.

For selling off our power companies, mismanaging our education system, bowling a record number of historic buildings and insisting that the solution to every possible transport problem is to build new roads, I cancel you out.

For signalling your intention to roll back the Resource Management Act, I cancel you out. For underfunding the arts, axing adult-education classes and ramming through welfare cuts, I cancel you out. For selling vast tracts of rural property to offshore speculators and driving up land prices beyond the reach of our own farmers, I cancel you out.

The list goes on and on, and it is a great personal motivator. Really, I can't wait to roll out of bed on election day and head out to the polling booth. It's always a good feeling to flex my political power, however slight.

But I am only one voter, and I only have one vote. Come the appointed day, I hope great herds of like-minded lefties will stream out of their houses and into the polling booths to join me in an orgy of mass cancellation, annulment and abrogation.

Who knows? If you're a National voter, it may be your vote I invalidate on September 20. Please, don't take it personally. There is no rancour here, only two opposing world views colliding with equal force, smacking against one another in the dark depths of a ballot box and vapourising on contact like matter and anti-matter in an old sci-fi comic.

And of course, it's a democracy, so the mathematics of mutual attrition works both ways. If I symbolically cancel out your vote on polling day, you can at least take heart in the fact that you are simultaneously cancelling out mine.

Sunday Star Times