Up Front by Emma Hart


What if We Held an Election and Nobody Came?


Come back from a trip to Wellington very aware that I need to find a cheaper way of distracting myself. Think, what I really need is a short-term job doing something completely different - i.e. not writing. That'd be nice.

Two days later, see an Electoral Commission tweet that they're hiring election day staff. That. Ideal. Make the application, which is suspiciously easy. Get a couple of referees prepared to testify to my general fine upstanding pillarness.


Employment contract arrives in the mail. Ace. All job applications should involve no CV and no-one bothering to contact my referees.

Start reading my Personal Instruction Manual. Have to keep stopping to snigger like a teenager. I have a Personal Instruction Manual. I wish. Man this is well-written. If you're out there, Technical Writer for the Electoral Commission, Well Fucking Done.

Having slight qualms about restrictions on my public statements. I was completely okay with not advocating for a party or candidate because I've never done that, but an issue? Probably best to just not say anything political publicly. When I tell this to a friend, he says, "Really? Did ACT pay you to do this?" But it's only a month, and this is seriously looking like the most boring election campaign in ages. How bad could it be?


Seriously running out of other things to write columns about. There's only so much porn you can link to. Theoretically. I suppose.

Extensively study my PIM on the plane on the way to Wellington. Spend the next five days in various states of inebriation. Still, sort of revise by having several conversations with friends about the stuff none of us knew. Devise several frighteningly feasible ways to carry out small-scale voter fraud.

Have training two days after coming home, so a day after sobering up. Arrive feeling like I know nothing. Leave feeling like no-one else knows anything. Realise just how long it's been since I had to deal with "normal people".

Our polling place manager did the same polling booth last year. Tells us to vote in advance because we won't have time on the day. Can tell how busy a booth is expected to be by the staffing level. There are eleven of us.

Spend more and more of my time bitching about politics to journalists. Those are private conversations.

The Teapot Tapes

Okay, wait a minute, what the fuck just happened? How is anyone managing their photo opportunities this badly? How do you not notice something like that? How... Goddammit, can't say anything. Luckily, my Twitter feed is saying it all for me. God I love social media, it's the only thing getting me through this enforced silence.

Hipsters for Goldsmith


 You fuckers are trying to kill me.

Election Day

Get up at seven a.m. Look like a half-developed negative of myself. Haven't had a hypoglycaemic attack for two days. Pack in enough food to feed a teenage boy for nearly an hour.

Spend the next hour and a half building furniture and signage from cardboard kitsets. Finish with ten minutes to spare. A queue has formed outside the door. Quite excited.

Ten minutes later, have cleared the queue and the polling place is empty.

By lunchtime, every time a voter comes in they're confronted by a row of six people at tables absolutely desperate to issue their vote. So. Bored. Meanwhile, there's a constant queue for Special Votes, and at the end of the night we can't get them all in the box.

Partner comes up to vote while I'm on my break. Vent a bit. "And people keep saying, 'Gosh, that was easy!' It's the EasyVote Card. It's right there in the name! It's not called a Total Fucking Pain in the Arse Vote Card."

By about three, have discovered why the tables are made of cardboard. Turns out the signs behind us, that say which electorate we're issuing votes for, are invisible. As are the signs on, and behind, the ballot boxes. This happens, over and over again:

Me: ...and when you're done, the papers go...

Voter: *walks away*

Me: IN THE PORT HILLS... fuck.

Voter: *comes out of the booth, walks past the Port Hills boxes, shoves votes in the Chch East boxes*

Me: *head thunks dully into cardboard table*

About four p.m., in yet another quiet patch, a sweet sort of burning leaves smell starts drifting in the open doors. Later, we find seven ALPC votes. They're even in the right fucking box.

Booth closes. Count. Counting is fun. Find self counting NZF votes three times. Inside of head while sorting votes goes "Nope nope nope nope Fuck nope nope Fuck nope nope..."

Leave polling place fifteen hours after arriving. Partner picks me up. "Do you want to hear the bad news?"

"Do you mean, 'Do I want to hear the bad news first?'"

"Um. No."


      Emma Hart is the author of the book 'Not Safe For Work'. (Click here to find out more)

104 responses to this post

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 Newer→ Last