Sunday, 18 October 2015

That Winning Feeling

Best winning face on the internet

At about 9pm last night, I began to get a feeling. That winning feeling. Kinda how I imagine you would feel about half way through seeing all your lotto numbers come up.

Well, I never buy lotto, so that exact scenario is not likely to happen to me, but being a scrutineer at an election count is a pretty cool way to get close - especially when you are representing the candidate who is winning in a landslide. That candidate was my friend Timothy and he worked damn hard to be that winner last night. His prize is the honour of serving as a local councillor for the next four years. 

I have been support crew from almost the day I met Tim, so I feel qualified to dissect the insides of a good win. Let me tell you, it was freaking painful getting to election night. Politics is a blood-sport, and the egos that compete are gigantuan. At least all the egos housed in middle class, middle-aged, portly white man bodies. The women, the skinny conservationist types still in their hiking gear, the any-colour-other-than-white candidates (of which there were, er...maybe two for the whole city?), they all seemed to have some humility tempering their egoes. 

Which is why I have no story about overcoming the nice people to win, obviously.

Tim was up against 3 other candidates for the same area. One was the incumbent councillor, one was a local businessman and another was a person thought to be on "our" side, but then, inexplicably, decided to run against us instead. Do I need to mention which body his ego is housed in? 

Didn't think so.

Anyway, in the age of Facebook Pages and cheap shirt printing, one can go to town on their campaign. Many did. But Tim, with a budget roughly rounded up to 0, did not print anything except colour postal flyers and the lists of streets he would need to visit in order to door-knock the ENTIRE suburb. 

Tim spent no time agonizing over which font looked best on a t-shirt, oh no. No time was wasted trying to get Facebook likes for a page with a 6 week lifespan at best. Oh no. Tim's weapon of choice was his two really really long legs. He was a one man door-knocking machine.

I came down to Perth from Dowerin to help one weekend. I almost had to jog to keep up. No smokos, no coffee break. We ate lunch at his favourite Chinese food haunt (he gets given the chinese menu without asking for it, if that's any indication of the waiter-customer rapport he's got going) and kept slogging away well in to the afternoon. The day I helped out, I think we covered about 150 houses each.

Door knocking is a rather intimidating activity for the beginner. I mean, I hate being interrupted by Jehovah's Witnesses as much as the next person, so the thought of that hatred being directed at me was very distressing.

Luckily, I did not encounter a single horrible person all day. I even had some great conversations with nice people. Most importantly for Tim, we made an impression on the people we did speak to, and that translated in to votes.

Remember - there were no ads, big or small, in the local paper spruiking Tim as "A great bloke", he didn't even have placards out on the streets with his mug smiling at busloads of voters  (not a bad idea really since I personally love defacing political posters of all persuasions). Just two legs, three weeks, and lots and lots of talking.

So, back to last night. 

Well actually, it's probably important to mention the night before last night because we did go out and get pretty drunk in Freo and dance like crazies. Hence Tim was very relaxed/hung over leading up to the vote count the next night. This was a brilliant move in hindsight, because he didn't feel like getting very excited or anxious due to a slight seediness persisting

I was anxious though, because I hadn't scrutineered before and I hadn't met these other candidates before either. You just don't know who is on who's team at these vote counts. One minute you are innocently making small talk with the person next to you, the next you are on guard because they have revealed they are working for the ENEMY and you are worried they are trying to tap you for information. I was an Intello you know. I'm on to this stuff.

Personally, I was suprised there were no punch-ups in the hallway outside the vote counting room, but I guess democracy is good at putting you in your place - the results are projected on to the wall 2 metres high for everyone to see.

Alright, so let's go back to me getting "the feeling" at about 9pm.

As a scrutineer, it was my job to be a busy body and watch over the shoulders of the counters as they put the votes in the right piles. If I saw anything happen that was wrong, I could raise my concerns with the head of the table and get them to check again. It also meant I got a good idea of who was winning from the get go.

The first vote counted was for Tim, so I took that as a good omen. He was sitting in the roped off area talking to other spectators, so it was hard to catch his eye. I wanted to flash him the thumbs up about every 30 seconds after it started, but he was deliberately avoiding looking at me. 

Within 10 minutes of counting, it was clear that Tim had a lot more votes than any other candidate. He was number 4 on the ballot paper, which usually isn't a good thing, but the counting went something like this:


I then looked over the shoulder of the other counter:


That's a lot of 4's in the first 10 minutes.

About 20 minutes in, the head of the table separated the officials in to two groups: sorters in one group, counters in another. All the votes sorted for Tim were collected together and given to one person to count. All the votes for everyone else were collected and given to the other counter. It was about then that I had a seriously good feeling. Tim still wouldn't look at me and I had to fight the urge to run over and say "You're killing them!" Half the table was counting his votes, the other half was counting everyone else's.

Eventually I did run over and say just that, but I waited until after the projector had updated the running total twice. By that stage he had 48% of the vote and needed only another 50 or so to win. I felt that I could leave the scrutineering to the others and celebrate - if this was the Federal election, we would have declared victory!

After it became apparent that Tim couldn't be beaten, Mr Not-actually-on-our-side was overheard by moi (he was standing behind my chair) telling one of his supporters that he didn't mind losing to Tim, as long as it wasn't the incumbent. He'd also said, before the vote, that Mr Incumbent was his only real competition for the role as the other two candidates hadn't done any campaigning. Please, forgive me, but I couldn't help myself at this point. I piped up in my cheery voice, "Oh, I just came back from the table and I'm pretty sure Mr Incumbent is actually going to place second." The results on the screen showed Mr Not-on-our-team was currently running second to Tim, but I knew how many votes had not yet been updated and was pretty confident in my estimate.

Sure enough, the next update saw him drop to third. 

Told you it was a blood-sport.

Kids, there are three morals to this story:
One: hard work wins over flashy advertising every time.
Two: Talking to people and being nice pays off.
And three: being a little bit hung over is sometimes the best way to deal with stress.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent report on a well deserved win, congratulations councillor Barling