Faithful readers will remember that the Captain became an Italian citizen about a month ago. As luck would have it, there was an election yesterday, and he is now eligible to vote. It wasn’t an election for political office, it was referenda on four questions: 1) should the law allowing privatization of the water company stay on the books? 2) should the cost of water be increased? 3) should the law exempting politicians currently in office from being tried in court stay on the books? and 4) should the plans to re-institute nuclear power plants in Italy go forward?
Will it surprise you to hear it was not a simple matter to get into the voting booth? The Captain started two weeks ago, when he went to the Comune to request his voting card, without which he could not vote. They were too busy to take care of him that day, and in fact tried very hard to discourage him from voting this time. But as a citizen it is his right to vote, and they were more or less obliged to take care of him, although not at that exact moment. They grumblingly instructed him to come back a week later, which he did. They were even busier and once again they tried to put him off. He wouldn’t give up, so they promised they would do the necessary work and then call him to let him know when he could pick up his card.
The polls were open on Sunday and Monday. Late Sunday afternoon the long-awaited call came, and first thing Monday morning the Captain went back to the Comune where he found… that his card was not ready. But there was a document that would allow him to vote and it was lacking only one signature. Fortunately the hand that had to affix the signature was actually in the building, so without too much more delay the Captain received a handsome paper on Comune letterhead, signed by the man in charge of elections, and officially stamped, attesting to his right to vote.
Going to the polls turned out to be one the pleasantest experiences we’ve had in quite a while. It began outside the former elementary school (now a Catholic social club) where we were warmly welcomed by the secretary of the polling section, Enrica Pedrasi, to whom the Captain explained his mission.
Inside we encountered the genial Gianluca from the Forestiere service. He was one of the people taxed with guarding the ballots from the time they arrived on Saturday until the polling was over on Monday afternoon. There is an armed guard on site at all times to make sure no one monkeys with the ballots.
There was a bit of confusion over the Captain’s document, because it was not the usual voting card, but the President of the polling section, Alberto Tumiati, made a quick phone call to the Comune, and all was well.
Renata Castagneto, one of the scritore normale of the polling section, entered the Captain’s name in the ledger of eligible voters. Please note, he has been entered on the ‘maschi’ side. Women’s names are entered in a different book kept at the other end of the table. We’re accustomed to seeing alphabetical groupings in the States – it was a surprise to see the gender separation.
Then the Captain was given his ballots. There was a separate color-coded ballot for each question. The referendum question was on a strip of paper glued on the top of the paper, instructions were glued below, and two large boxes, one for Si and one for Non were glued at the bottom.
Into the booth he went, and, for the first time, voted as an Italian Citizen. You can see his shoe in the picture below, peeking out from beneath the voting booth.
Moments later he emerged with his marked and folded ballots, and deposited each ballot in the appropriately colored box (he reports that it was complicated to fold the ballot correctly – many folds, and one section had to face out).
You can see from the expressions on the faces above that we received a very warm welcome. In fact a cheer went up when we first walked into the room. We were told that with the Captain’s appearance the percentage of people voting of those eligible at this voting station now stood at 51% (Rapallo, with its population of 30,000+ has 30 polling districts, each with about 1,000 voters. Voters must vote at their own polling stations). Well, that’s nice, we thought. Then we learned that for the referenda to be effective more than 50% of the eligible voters in the nation must vote. Little San Maurizio did its part. There are about 330 eligible voters in the village, and at least 165 turned out.
As I write this the final results are not yet in. But the evening news indicated that it seems all four referenda were passed – that is, that the laws already in place allowing for nuclear power plants, privatization of the water companies and immunity from prosecution for politicians in office, have all been overturned by popular vote.
Hurray for democracy!
Addendum: It is the first time in fifteen years that enough voters have turned out to make a referendum valid. All four popular initiatives passed convincingly (90%), which some see as the beginning of the end for Mr. Berlusconi. See what the Italian press is saying here (in English).
Renata, Enrica, Alberto… if I have details wrong, please correct me in the comments or in an e-mail, okay?