There are ways and means of clouding the issues, of course. First and foremost you need to phrase the questions in such a manner that your average voter won’t understand what is being asked of him. Her. Other. The first time I voted in Italy was in a popular referendum in the summer of 2011. The difference between a popular and a constitutional referendum is that in the former you vote Yes to abolish the law under discussion, whereas in the latter you vote Yes to support it. So if you really wanted to say NO to Berlusconi and his favourite laws, you had to put YES on your ballot sheet. Also, ideally you should have been aware of the name, number, paragraph and subsection of whichever law was being referred to. The papers had been full of diagrams and explanations for weeks, but there was so much other more riveting news to absorb that one had tended to skip the legal stuff and head for the juicy bits.
Where Berlusconi was concerned, there was never a lack of juicy bits.
Thus I found myself heading off to vote that summer bearing a stick-it note with NONONOSI scrawled on it. Or perhaps it was SISISINO, I really don’t remember. My main worry was not getting to the church on time, since not only was it rush hour, it was also none too clear where, after a lifetime of moving house and country, I was supposed to be registered. Under my maiden name. Over forty years of marriage, two children and five grandchildren, but I am still not permitted to use my married name on any official document in Italy.
I drove out to the borough we had inhabited way back in the seventies where, according to Rome city council computers, I still resided. I know better than try to argue with a Rome city council computer and I most definitely knew better than to try to argue with one of its computer operators.
Eventually I reached the designated secondary school way over on the other side of town just before they closed the polling station. When I finally drove up in a cloud of dust, (we do dust in Rome – especially at that time of year,) outside my not very local and not-at-all friendly polling booth with just seven minutes to spare before they closed, parked on top of two police cars thereby blocking their escape route for what I hilariously had thought would be a mere 70 seconds, just enough time to place My Cross against all the opposite answers to what I was voting for, it was to be asked, with much sucking of pencil and no little embarrassment, whether I knew where the letter “J” was positioned in the alphabet?
And do you know what? I did. I really did. Between “I” and “K”, I answered with some pride. Whilst looking anxiously at my watch. Three minutes down and four to go. Silence. Ms. Voluntary Pensucker starts over again from A and flips her way laboriously through to Z. Swearing audibly. Just her luck. Three minutes (by now) to closing time and she gets the foreigner called Jackson.
Maybe, she said hopefully, they stuck it at the end? With the zebras and zippers. Try again, this time starting from the end and reading backwards.
You should know that the letter J does not figure in the Italian alphabet. Kiddies in play school go straight from I for Illiterate to K for Kleptomania. I mused silently, not wishing to disturb her laborious train of thought.
O.K. Time’s UP!!
Sigh of relief all round.
Go home and watch it on the tele.
Except, of course, I didn’t have a tele.
Maybe that explains everything. One tele, one vote. No tele, no vote. though in the end it transpired that I was not going to help change the face of Italian politics singlehandedly anyway.
Related article: “OP-ED: A RIGHT ROYAL BREXIT“
The postal vote for the Brexit referendum on the other hand, was a cross between Painting by Numbers and an Ikea self- assembly kit. Two little boxes. Choose one. Eeny meeny miney mo. Next take piece of paper A and fold along line B. Insert in envelope C and seal before slotting carefully into postbox D. A literary style reminiscent of a Delia Smith recipe.
For U.K. based voters in some constituencies, notably Bristol, you didn’t even need to make a choice, it was all done for you with a picture of a pencil hovering over just one of the two boxes. The one for remaining in Europe. Easy Peasy. There. Piece of cake. All the intellectually challenged would vote to stay in because that was where the hovering pencil indicated they should place their X. The Remainers couldn’t lose.
Well that worked well, didn’t it?
So now we wait for Scotland. I can see the graphics already. A kilted Scotsman building an impenetrable wall of haggis and threatening any invading Englishman with the wrong end of his bagpipes whilst simultaneously dipping his French croissant into a melted Mars Bar.
If you ask me, choice is highly overrated.
Recommended reading: “IMPAKTER ESSAY: THE UGLY SIDE OF BREXIT”