By John Moran, 15 December 2019
Australians around the world were shocked last week to learn that democracies worldwide, such as Britain, the USA, Canada and Ireland, are lagging in terms of polling practice. Despite all the speculation about the result, the big take away from Thursday’s UK election was the sight of drab, unadorned polling booths lacking a fundraising food-and-drink kiosk. It even seems to have triggered post-election protests in parts of the UK.
The shock triggered widespread tweeting about the issue and Australians were further surprised to learn the USA, Canada and Ireland don't currently engage in such fundamental democratic practices either. Not only do these countries mostly still have voluntary and first-past-the-post voting systems, which is bad enough, but when you’re standing in long lines waiting to do your duty you can’t even enjoy a Democracy Sausage. Astonishment “down under” quickly morphed into disdain, before sympathy and the natural Aussie desire to help became the dominant emotions.
It’s been many a time Australia’s had to show the world how, when it comes to this democracy thing – think the secret ballot and letting women vote, just to name a couple - and it seems we have to step up again and educate our Anglosphere brothers and sisters in the finer arts of running a fun polling booth. So here’s an Idiot’s Guide to a successful Democracy Sausage stall at your local school or community hall on election day.
Now, why we would we want to do that, I can hear some asking. As the ad says: It's simples. To raise money for your kids and their school. As the long lines at many UK booths showed on Thursday, you’ve got a captive audience – especially at certain times of the day.
So, if your school is a polling booth on election day it’s really a no brainer for your parents’ association to run a Democracy Sausage stall, especially during the busy morning hours up until lunch time. Not only can you raise good money for some equipment or library books, but you also promote the school, generate community spirit and goodwill and help put a bit of sizzle - sausage sizzle - into the haul to the voting hall.
Parents’ associations know how to run such stalls and do so regularly, so I won’t spend a lot of time spelling out the bleedin’ obvious. However, keep it simple – a sausage or hot dog sizzle, onions, sliced bread (easier than bread rolls in this setting), cold drinks, coffee and tea, cakes, biscuits/cookies and a small selection of lollies/candy. You can even try second-hand books and other, simple non-perishables if you’re game.
You'll also need some hardware like a shade marquee or undercover area, a few long tables, a BBQ or two, basic serving and cooking equipment, sauces/mustards, ice and a few large eskies/coolers, a cash float and some friendly volunteers. Make sure you have a good relationship with the election staff and get a prominent, high-viz spot near the booth entrance.
Try and support local businesses, such as butchers and bakers, by inviting them to donate or support the stall and ensure they are well promoted through your school community. Get your school families baking cakes and biscuits/cookies. Promote your presence in the weeks prior, through the school community, local media outlets, churches and community groups. Have a wet weather plan.
Last, but not least – under no circumstances involve your stall in the political debate. Do not let any partisanship to attach itself to your stall. You are there to support the voters, not tell them how to vote.
So, down here, down under, we look forward to seeing Democracy Sausage stalls at schools across the United States on 3 November 2020 and at the next UK, Irish and Canadian elections – local, State or federal.
There’s even a website: https://democracysausage.org/elections