Monday, October 26, 2009

French to English: Elections, Part 3


We voted yesterday after attending church service.  It was a beautiful day and that's probably why the parking lot in the advanced voting place in my district was decently populated.  I wouldn't call it bumper-to-bumper, but traffic was steady.

The day was a mix of sun and wind but it wasn't your typical late October wind.  It was pleasant, reason why people willingly ventured out of their homes with their voting cards in tow.

According to today's Montreal Gazette, advanced voters made up 5.25% of total registered voters in the island of Montreal.  It reported that in some districts, the line-ups were excruciatingly long.  One voter was so fed up he left before he could vote, fearful that his mother, who was in her 90s, might faint. 

Voter turnout in the 2005 elections was a pitiable 35%.  This Sunday let's hope that percentage is much higher.

I did observe some things yesterday that could be improved;  it might be worthwhile to address some of these issues to make the voting experience "beaucoup plus agréable" as Francophones say.  My observations/comments:

1.  It took about five minutes to walk from the parking area to the polling place.  For people like me, this five-minute walk means nothing, but to older people and to the handicapped, it's an issue that officials should look into.  It's fine to provide less mobile people with free transportation to the polling place, but consideration must also be given once they're dropped off at the polling place.  How about one of those go-carts used at airports?  A rickshaw's not a bad idea and might inject some humor.


2.  My brother and I had to wait in line for about 15-20 minutes; again something a normal person like me wouldn't mind, but I was a tad worried about my brother (who walks with crutches and who can't stand for long periods of time).  The lady ahead of me was leaning on a cane, lamenting the disadvantages of getting old and her weakened knee.  The lady before her had to sit on a bench nearby, saying she was grateful that at least there were no stairs; otherwise it would be have been extremely difficult for her.

3.  No one offered a chair to my brother while we waited our turn.  I'm sure it wasn't done on purpose.  The excitement of the first hour of voting made election personnel oblivious to this problem and were more concerned about orderliness.  There were a lot of older people around, however, and perhaps there should have been a separate and quicker line for weaker and disabled voters.

4.  The ballots - there were four in total.  This surprised me.  Talk about how NOT to confuse people. Couldn't all the candidates' names be consolidated into one ballot?  One more thing:  the instruction was to "darken or mark."  Meaning, the voter could either put a check mark or X or darken the circle.  But the circle was about 1 cm in size against a black background.  I'll leave it to your imagination about what can potentially happen to these ballots.  Here's one question among several in my mind:  what if the voter had arthritis and had trouble with not-so-nimble fingers, unable to press down the pencil?

Enough of these cracker-barrel homilies, to use Shawn Levy's phrase.  Except for the inconveniences I mentioned, our voting experience went well.  Count our blessings that in Canada, elections are never marred with random acts of violence.  Et pour cela, nous sommes chanceux!

Let's tackle that lexicon for you:



bulletin de vote spécial special ballot
bureau d'inscription registration office
certificat de transfert transfer certificate
depouillement judiciaire judicial recount
greffier du scrutin poll clerk
loi sur la révision des circonscriptions électorales Electoral Boundaries Readjustment Act
tiers third party
cours à l'investiture nomination contests
vote de confiance confidence vote
ministres sans portfeuilles (Ministres d'État) ministers without portfolio (Ministers of State)
système majoritaire uninominal first past the post
monarchie constitutionelle constitutional monarchy
l'arbitre en matière de radiodiffusion broadcasting arbitrator

This concludes our 3-part series on election terminology.  Our next theme will be on a lighter, more hip topic.  Promise...

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