I paid big money to get a leaflet printed in full colour. I paid more to get it delivered because 25,000 was too many for our group to manage. I don’t know how many actually went out but my copy came buried in the middle of eighteen items of junk mail. Who knows if anyone actually noticed my screed? What a rip-off!
So I organised another leaflet and pumped up the tyres on my push-bike. As a kid I was a dab hand at delivering the weekly newspaper but I’d lost my touch. Besides, a flimsy sheet was harder to handle.
Ted and I did a few days letter-boxing but the sun was hot and the hills were steep and 8000 takes much longer to deliver than you think. As for those bloody letterboxes! Some were at ground level, some two metres high. The worst were the ones with spring-loaded flaps that snapped shut like rabbit traps on your fingers. I wondered how the posties put up with it all, but at least they get paid.
By the third week campaigning seemed like total drudgery. I handed out leaflets at railway stations but not everyone accepted them. I didn’t mind the knock-backs but some commuters stalked past as if I wasn’t there. That bit was demoralising. A nod costs nothing; I just wanted my existence acknowledged.
All this time the early voting booth was open. It’s where you go if you want to avoid the queues on election day. My wife had come good and she and Ted did the lion’s share. They enjoyed the camaraderie among the handers-out. Labor shared their water with us, the Country Alliance candidate bought us all cakes and most of us handed out each other’s cards when someone needed a toilet break. Only the Libs were stand-offish; I guess they were paranoid about losing.
Come polling day. I had 17 booths to man and I conscripted every friend and relative I could. Handing out how-to-vote cards is a real chore but the atmosphere was sociable. It was nice that you can disagree and compete and still be civil, friendly even. Most of our group valued the experience. It made you appreciate living in a democracy.
Of course democracy isn’t in the voting but in the counting. I had the right to appoint scrutineers but how could I ask my troops at the end of ten hours to do another four? Besides, I had faith in the system. Australia isn’t Russia. Nobody’s going to carry in a sack of phantom votes through the back door.
I followed the results on TV and the internet. At first things looked good. I polled well at my closest booths and ended the night on 4.3 per cent. Over the following week, though, the postal votes trickled in and I lost ground.
I needed that four per cent to get my deposit back and collect two grand of funding. I ended up with 3.97 per cent. What a bummer.
At the declaration of the poll we candidates were able to say a few words. I said: ‘If I’d got ten extra votes I would have qualified for electoral funding. My failure has therefore saved the tax-payers of Victoria $2700. That, people, is my contribution to politics!’
Campaigning had been hard work. It showed how difficult it is to get your views across and break through the two-party system. Still, I learned a lot. Next time I’ll kiss more babies.
(Written for The Big Issue but rejected.)