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18 Sep

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Berlin votes

September 18, 2011 | By |

I just cast my vote in the Berlin state elections (Wikipedia de/en). No worries, I’m not going to go into politics here. And yet, I think there is something to elections, particularly those on state and local level.

I have an almost romantic notion of these elections. Not so much because I think the act of casting the vote in person is a particularly symbolic thing to do; it might be, who knows. No, it’s more because of the nature of the voting process that might just be the most unsexy of all elections.

The ballot boxes are placed in public schools, or nursery homes, or community centers. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with these places, it makes the process – or rather the setting, atmosphere – almost gorgeously unglamorous, fantastically functional.

It’s not that the volunteers on the ground run the show unprofessionally – far from it! It is the complete lack of polish that stands out. No show, no ads, no speeches. Nothing overly patriotic either. Just a few tables, makeshift stands to make your crosses on the ballot out of sight (to speak of privacy would be euphemistic). On some wall or closet or shelf, some flags are attached: Germany, Berlin, Europe. Even the flags look comfortingly small and unglamorous.

Elections on state level are tricky. While very important, they tend to be somewhat low-interest. If you polled folks about any party’s concrete positions on any issue, I’m fairly certain the answers would be based on the national party positions rather than state level, if anything at all. As someone who was involved in political campaigns before, this pains me, yet I’m not immune to it either; far from it, in fact.

And yet. When I got to the local church community center, in shorts and t-shirt as I was on my way to a run, there was a line there. There was a nun, a young dad with his daughter, several people who looked as if they might have come straight out of a club, an old man in a leather jacket and many others. They all stood there in line, paying little attention to the churchy advertisements in the hallway that smelled slightly of canteen food. They all went there, on a rainy Sunday, despite the alleged lack of interest in politics, and cast their votes.

There is something to that.

Being the politics geek that I am, I’ll watch an episode of The West Wing before the first election results will be published from 18h onwards. Plenty of glamor there.

ps. A shout-out: Anna-Lena will provide some waffle-based visualizations of the results at Wahlwaffeln.tumblr.com