Skye Nolan

Skye Nolan

My Career   I am currently working at Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre as a Clinical Research Coordinator in the Department of Radiation Oncology. Working closely with doctors, nurses and patients, I coordinate a range of clinical trials aimed at improving outcomes for oncology patients by improving treatments. Prior to commencing at Peter Mac, I was working as […]

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Election Day

Election Day

By on July 22, 2016 in Toastmasters with No Comments

For the last week and a half, we have heard non-stop news about the election – we have heard all about the candidates, the parties, the leaders and the policies. We have heard much speculation, as many tried to predict what was going to happen. We have heard about the votes being counted and recounted as each of the marginal seats came closer to being decided.

But what we haven’t heard a lot about is the 75,000 temporary election staff and the huge amount of resources it takes to help ensure each voter has the opportunity to cast their vote and make it count.

I find it amazing that in just one day, everyone across the county can vote, then all the ballot papers can be counted and the results for most seats can become available just a few hours after polling closes.

In a country the size of Australia, distance poses a special challenge on Election Day. We have large areas of land that are sparsely populated which means a few electorates that are just huge! The largest electorate is Durack in Western Australia. Durack is home to just 177,000 people but covers a massive 1.5 million square kilometres which makes up 64% of the state of WA – if all the electorates in Australia were the size of Durack we would only have five of them!

The scale of the whole election is something that can be hard to get your head around. There are about 15 and a half million people enrolled to vote in Australia and on election day, 10 million people visited 7000 polling places around the country. There were 45 million ballot papers produced, and over 100,000 pens and voting screens were distributed in the polling places.

The Saturday before last, I had the opportunity to work as an election official one of these polling places, and tonight I want to tell you a little about my experience working on Election Day.

At 5:30am on the 2nd July I awoke with excitement – Election Day was here! I got ready and headed down to Moorooduc Primary School where I was going to be working that day. This was my first time working at a federal election, and I arrived at the primary school at 7:00am ready to start the long day of marking people off the electoral roll, handing out ballot papers, and counting up the votes.

When I arrived, I met the team I was going to be working with. The people who work as election officials come from all walks of life – in my team there was a young stay at home mum who was in charge of our polling place for the day, an election first-timer who was full of nerves and questions, an election-pro who had worked at tens of elections over the years, a semi-retired holistic healer, an eccentric lady who insisted on cleansing my aura, and an older lady who was full of enthusiasm and extremely keen to get things going as soon as we arrived.

The working day started with setting up my area and counting ballot papers to confirm how many I had been allocated at my station. Counting and recounting is a huge part of the day – everything needs to be exact and every ballot paper must be accounted for at the end.

With everything is setup and ready to go, at 8am on the dot the doors opened and the eager early morning voters started rushing into the polling place. There are always those people are so keen to get in they are waiting outside before voting even begins – and I must admit that if I am not working at an election I am one of them!

As the day got going, I settled into my role and a steady stream of people flowed through the venue and casted their votes. At the election, you not only get to work with a range of people but you also meet all types of people as they come in to vote. There are those who are enthusiastic about carefully considering each candidate, standing at the booth for many minutes while a queue slowly forms behind them. There are those disgruntled voters who are not shy in expressing their dissatisfaction with the current government or politicians in general. There are those who complain about their time being wasted asking, “Why do we have to vote?” as they snatch their ballot papers out of my hand. And there are those who were just bitterly disappointed that the polling place they chose to attend did not have the traditional Aussie sausage sizzle. But no matter what type of voter they were, almost every single person I served on Election Day looked at me in astoundment as I passed that giant Senate ballot paper to them over the desk.

Senate Ballot Paper 2016 web

All day I watched people awkwardly manoeuvring around, trying to figure out how they were supposed to fit a one meter long paper into that tiny voting booth! And counting those papers was even harder – unfolding each one, and searching that huge white paper for a tiny 1.

In the polling place where I was working, 700 ordinary voters come through, so when voting closed at 6:00pm, we had 700 House of Reps and 700 Senate ballot papers to count. Working together as a team, we managed to sort, count and pack all the papers ready to be transported to the local electoral office by 10:30pm.

After 16 hours of working with this group of people, it was time to say goodbye and head home. It is a strange feeling spending the day getting to know someone, then at end the day knowing you will probably never meet them again. I ended my day by saying thank yous and goodbyes to my temporary teammates, and then headed home absolutely exhausted.

Across Australia, more than 11 million votes were counted on election night, and a week and a half later thousands of AEC employees continue to count and recount every single ballot paper. So next time you are in that voting booth, take a moment to reflect on the tens of thousands of people, the millions of pieces of paper, the hundred thousand pencils and the enormous amount of cardboard involved in making your vote count.

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