Saturday, November 8, 2008

Your Kiwi civics lesson for the day.

With all of the hoopla surrounding a certain U.S. election this week, my devoted North American readers may not realize that New Zealand is having its own major election today. Prime Minister Helen Clark -- in office since 1999 -- is defending her seat against National Party candidate John Key. (By the polls, things aren't looking so hot for Helen. Appears voters everywhere are feeling antsy, these days ...)

Because NZ gives voting rights to permanent residents, Chris and I were out rocking the vote, as demonstrated the blurry photo of my little voting sticker. (The freaky little crash test dummy-looking guy on the sticker is the NZ Election mascot. He's freaky even in sharp focus.)

And so I give you my list of things I've found interesting about the NZ voting process:

1) Everyone must register to vote in NZ. You don't actually have to vote, but you are required to register.

2) In NZ, you can show up to any polling location in your district, so I got to choose between about three or four places all within walking distance. Voting took all of two minutes. No one asked to see ID.

3) There are a bazillion little parties here. Labour and National are the big two -- the Democrats and Republicans, if you will -- and because I am new to all of this they're the only ones I worried about. But should you be inclined to get behind a "Legalise Cannabis Party" or a "New World Order Party," they've got you covered.

4) When voting in NZ, there are no touch-screen machines or levers to pull. They literally handed me a paper ballot and an orange magic marker. I suppose this is possible when you have a population of only four million, but it still brought me back to the days of voting for a student government president in high school.

On another civics note, I am glad to report that it appears The Wee One qualifies for triple citizenship -- U.S. (from me), Canadian (from Chris), and Kiwi (because s/he is going to be born here). Fun, huh?

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