rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
[personal profile] rmc28
I lied, I'm not going to bed, I can't settle.

I've explained about telling, to a greater or lesser degree, something like twenty times today. No, I'm not exaggerating. So I've decided to write it out here too.

The people who sit outside polling stations, wearing party rosettes, and asking people for "your poll number" are engaged in a traditional political activity known as "telling". They are not officials of the polling station. Voters do not have to give their number, and if a party worker is being overly rude, a complaint to the polling station staff inside can make them stop or even be ejected. However, most tellers are polite, and will take a refusal in good grace. It is traditional for tellers of different parties to share numbers, and even split the workload of collecting the numbers if many people arrive at once. Telling benefits all parties and is the nicest part of election time, as it emphasises co-operation between people who are usually just "ordinary members" of the respective parties doing their bit. Lots of gossiping and pleasant conversation can be had with fellow tellers in between voter arrivals.

So what's it all about?
The party workers outside the polling station are not trying to find out who you are voting for. They are merely trying to establish who has voted, and the polling number is the quickest reference (and avoids revealing unnecessary personal data like your name and address). After the election, they will get copies of the marked registers and can correct any mistakes in their data for future reference, but on the day they are simply trying to keep up with the number of people actually going out and voting.

During the campaigning period before the elections, parties do two things: deliver leaflets and canvass (knock on the door and ask if you'll support them). The quantity and quality of both these activities depend on the quantity and quality of volunteer time available to the party. But in an ideal world, by the time we reach polling day, the party activists in the "committee room" should have a reasonable idea of people who are likely to support them across the relevant constituency, based both on this election's canvass data and data from any previous elections they have kept. However, supportive people are only supportive if they actually go out and vote.

So, from about 10am, party workers will be out knocking on the doors of likely supporters to remind them to vote. This is called "knocking up" (insert standard innuendo here). Data from tellers is very useful for eliminating people from the knocking-up lists so that the limited volunteer effort can be most usefully targeted. However, the large number of voters in any constituency or ward mean that most tellers haven't a clue who the likely supporters are, let alone their polling number, so all they care about is recording that they voted. The committee room do the rest. Of course, there's always something of a lag between data coming in from tellers and knockers-up knocking on doors, so inevitably you will knock-up people who have already voted. Most people are forgiving of the lack of instantaenous data transfer.

So, in summary. You don't have to give your number to any party activist. Party activists will usually work together so all activists get all numbers. Equally, you don't have to tell canvassers who you're voting for. However, if you have indicated to a canvasser at any recent election that you will support them, then you are probably less likely to be bothered the rest of polling day if you give your number. Even if you've never told any canvasser anything, the people telling at the polling station won't know that. They just want to get an idea of turnout and who's voted, for their committee room. Most if not all of them should understand that this is something you are entirely entitled to keep private, and should be polite.

However, for that segment of the population that seems to like treating tellers like something they found on the bottom of their shoe: every single canvasser and teller I have ever met, of any party, is someone who decided they wanted to get involved in the way their local authority and/or country is run. They put considerable amounts of time and effort into supporting a party they have chosen because they believe that party has (mostly) the right idea about the way to run things, because they believe that making an effort to change things (or to keep the status quo) is better than doing nothing at all. Refusal to give information is your right, but being rude and contemptuous while you do so seems unnecessary.

Date: 2005-05-05 14:09 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arnhem.livejournal.com
I think that tellers have a problem in common with many other situations, that negative experiences with them have far more (and more lasting) effect on the perception than positive experiences (and neutral experiences don't sway people at all from any prior state of opinion).

My perception of drivers suffers from a similar effect, although I try to actively compensate for it ...

The depressing thing is that this means that ridiculously small numbers of "bad apples" can have remarkably wide-reaching effects on public perception.

In both cases, this is exacerbated by the fact that it's much more difficult to do something that makes someone think "that was good" about a teller (or a driver), than to do something that makes someone think "that was bad".

Date: 2005-05-05 15:33 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] clanwilliam.livejournal.com
As I said in my LJ - my first experience with tellers was rather unpleasant as she basically demanded my number without explanation and I had no idea what she was doing. So I just blurted out "no" and walked off.

This time, the nice pair outside the polling station were cheerful, sharing numbers and chatting to everyone so I asked them what it was about and they explained most courteously.

Date: 2005-05-05 19:31 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] satanicsocks.livejournal.com
The ones outside my polling station were like that today, brusquely asking for a number. Caused the SO to randomly make up a number at them that was clearly not within the right format, which was mean, but since they were rude, it was sort of justified. Since we didn't get any door to door callers, and indeed most people can't decide which ward we're in, it didn't matter that much.

Date: 2005-05-05 16:49 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] http://users.livejournal.com/_nicolai_/
If you don't have a polling card, the tellers seem not to care about you. I haven't had one for the past several elections.
Does that make party activists more likely to come and call on me because they think I am not voting and want me to come and vote, or make them less likely to come and call on me because I am obviously a lost cause, never noted to be voting?

Date: 2005-05-06 08:51 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghoti.livejournal.com
Addresses also work.

Date: 2005-05-05 23:56 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] artela.livejournal.com
Where we are... we get no contact from candidates (unless you call a panicked drive round with a loud hailer by Peter Hain yesterday, which Was the first day he'd actually campaigned in his own constituency!). We had buckets of generic party literature through the post. No tellers at the polling station. Living in a "safe" seat means that no-one really cares about us out here :-(

Date: 2005-05-06 03:21 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] artela.livejournal.com
I prefer AV+ to STV, but the thought is still the same - we need some proportionality reflecting in the results!

Date: 2005-05-06 02:46 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beckyc.livejournal.com
I don't understand why some people feel the need to be rude to tellers. I've never felt threatened by such people, and never really felt the need to keep the requested information to myself anyway. When strangers ask me to do something, unless I strongly disagree with whatever it is they're asking, then I'll likely comply.

I'm also the curious type that does tend to ask nosy questions about what they're doing (what it involves, the merits etc)

Date: 2005-05-06 07:10 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] arnhem.livejournal.com
Not a reason for feeling the need to be rude as such, but it's possible that quite a lot of the people in question are feeling significantly stressed by the process of voting; the behaviour of people feeling stressed can often be mistaken for rudeness ...

Date: 2005-05-06 08:50 (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ghoti.livejournal.com
"The quantity and quality of both these activities depend on the quantity and quality of volunteer time available to the party"

Also, different local party organisers work in different ways. In Cambridge, for example, Labour do pretty much all their campaigning by targetted l;etters, so they do a lot of canvassing. The Lib Dems do less, because we do more gneral leafletting. The Conservatives, of course, do nothing, but that is because they don't have the people.

Date: 2015-05-07 13:07 (UTC)
damerell: NetHack. (Default)
From: [personal profile] damerell
It's not how they act I object to, but that it's a party political activity at a polling station.

Date: 2016-05-05 06:35 (UTC)
hollymath: (Default)
From: [personal profile] hollymath
It's not specific to any party, though; this information benefits all the parties, which is why we share it, and it benefits voters who don't get bugged to vote later in the day. It's only party political in that the parties are the ones who have volunteers to go around knocking on doors.


rmc28: Rachel smiling against background of trees, with newly-cut short hair (Default)
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