Like just about everything else in Maury, elections are a family affair. People come to vote with dogs and kids, greet everyone in the room, bisous and handshakes all around and take a moment to chat about the weather.
I arrived around 10:30 in the morning and the Mayor and Jean Batlle were checking names on the voter rolls, Jean-Roger was accepting ballots and Pierrette was gathering signatures. I asked the mayor if it was alright to take photos and he said of course; then I promptly tripped on a step I didn’t see and fell against one of the booths, fearing that I was about to take the entire French democracy down with me.
I managed a sheepish “Excusez-moi” and Charley, who always has an expression of deep concern said: “No, no, are you alright.”
I was fine and the democratic process was still intact.
So here’s how it works: you show your voter card, pick up an envelope and cards with the candidates’ names – you must take both – and go into the booth where you place one card in the envelope and drop the other in a trash bin. Then you’re checked off the list, place the envelope in the slot of a plastic box and an official pushes a lever dropping the ballot into the box while you sign the register.
Now you kiss or shake hands with anyone who arrived after you, catch up on any local news you may have missed and go home to lunch. The morning was busy and Marie told me most people vote before lunch. Sensible people don’t let politics ruin a Sunday siesta.
I returned around 5:30, and the last few voters straggle in to a chorus of ahhhs and in one case, applause. Pierrette, the president of the Cave Cooperative, takes her ballot. She likes to be the last voter. At 6:00 the polls close and the count begins after a shuffling of furniture. About 30 people have arrived to witness the count by the mayor and members of the municipal council and the room gets very quiet. The mayor opens the ballot box, all the envelopes are counted and the tally compared with the voting records, then they are divided into batches of 100, opened and counted. Null ballots which may result from an empty envelope, both candidate cards in one envelope or a vote cast for someone not on the ballot are tallied and set apart. The mayor counts out loud in groups of ten, while others record his count. All totals must agree. The votes are entered in a spreadsheet, reported to the regional government and then up the chain to Paris and posted on the door of City Hall.
It’s a very sober process. There’s never a hint of partisanship, not the slightest indication of any interest in the results, just the sense of doing an important job, doing it efficiently and accurately and going home when it’s done.
For the record:
Eligible voters: 702
Francois Hollande: 305
Nicolas Sarkozy: 239
Null ballots: 30