Which do you fear most at your front door – Halloween tricksters or campaigning politicians?
With Halloween coming up, it is a good time for a blog post about something really and truly frightening. The children in costumes who come to your door range from adorable to annoying, but when the politicians go door to door, it’s a whole different sort of tricks and treats. This being Ireland, elections are not all that straightforward. They are more like a corn maze that could spring up at any minute. We understand our American and Canadian friends are dealing with their own political insanity right now, and frankly could use some comic relief/ perspective.
You would be forgiven for thinking that the election procedure in Ireland was devised by mischief-loving (and malicious) leprechauns, and while evidence exists that it was created by sane people, we cannot disprove the wee folk had some influence. For starters, there is no set date for elections. While those in the USA know when they will be electing a president (and being tortured by increasingly long and ridiculous campaigns), those of us in Ireland know only that the next major election will be not more than five years from the last one.
Yep, at any point the government can call an election. While the Irish presidency is mostly a ceremonial office, it does have the power to dissolve the Dáil – and once that happens, an election is just 30 days away. Before anyone gets jealous, that means only the most obvious campaigning such as posters is confined to a 30-day period. The posturing and posing ramps up any time rumors of the Dáil being dissolved gather momentum.
Blarney and Ballots
Politicians campaigning anywhere involves the same unintentionally hilarious and stomach churning parade of faux folksy behavior and posing with babies. But what about election day itself? Well, this is where Ireland shines. Please keep in mind that despite the similarities between election day in Ireland and the Mad Hatter’s tea party, we cannot blame this on Alice in Wonderland author Lewis Carroll. Leprechauns… well, again, it has not been disproven that they have had a disturbing influence.
In the US, voters are asked to pick one candidate on their ballot per office. But in Ireland, we have so many more to choose from; in fact, we often have more than one choice per party per office. So we rank them. In the box next to their name, we give our favorite a number 1, our next favorite a 2 and so on. Now, it is legally acceptable to vote only for your first preference, but really if everyone did that, vote counting would so boring and transparent. If we instead rank every single soul on the ballot in order of preference, then we have the fun of vote transfers! If you rank your favorite candidates, if your first preference candidate is either voted in or eliminated, your vote will go to your second choice and so on down the line. Please note, a candidate being eliminated is nothing scarier than not getting enough votes to be in the running for the seat. Elections aren’t that scary here!