Thursday, 23 June 2016

How Close is Your Polling Station?

It's the European Referendum today. You know my feelings on the matter, so I'm not getting into that again other than to say, however you feel, PLEASE VOTE.

I'm writing this at 6pm, having already been out to vote.

Julie outside the polling station in Matley, Orton Brimbles
Outside the polling station in Matley, Orton Brimbles

Here's a picture of me taken outside my polling station in Orton Brimbles.

"Orton Brimbles?! I thought you lived in Orton Northgate, in that house with all the 'Vote Green' posters in the window, Julie!"

Well, yes, I do live in Orton Northgate. Unfortunately, there is no polling station here. There isn't one in Orton Southgate either.

Polling station in Matley, Orton Brimbles, 1.5 miles from my home
Polling station in Matley, Orton Brimbles, 1.5 miles from my home

Our polling station is in Matley in Orton Brimbles, 1.5 miles away. No big deal?  Well, it can be if, like me, you don't drive.

It happens that I don't mind a walk, and voting is very important to me, so I will make the effort. But it concerns me that turnout at the last local election was only 35% in this ward and I wonder to what extent the distance to the polling station made a difference.

Yes, it is true that more and more people choose to vote by post these days. Personally, I like the ritual and the process to turning up at the polling station to vote in person. I like to see democracy in action. I like to say 'hello' to people in my community. One of the great things about polling day used to be that feeling of being united under democracy as we all trooped to the polling station. There's an atmosphere of anticipation, and I like it. I still want to do that. I just wish the polling station wasn't quite so far away from my home and I worry that the distance deters some people from voting at all.

The irony, of course, is that there is a polling station very close to Northgate in Alwalton, but Electoral Commission rules state that you can only vote at the polling station to which you have been assigned (and Alwalton is beyond the ward boundary - in fact, it's outside Peterborough). This makes total sense from an administrative point of view. I'm less convinced that it makes sense for all residents, however.

What do you think? Given the growth of Ortons Northgate and Southgate, isn't it time we had a polling station of our own?

A crude map of my walk to my nearest polling station, 1.5 miles away. 
Yes, it does involve walking in a little circle at the half-way point.
I shall let you work out why.

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