Another milestone has been reached. March 19 is election day for local officials and little ole me was invited to join in.
Though it seems odd, even non-citizens can vote for their neighborhood and city representative over here. Contrast this with laws in the U.S. where only citizens can vote, which as a Green cardholder for 5 years and tax-payer for 12 I didn’t really appreciate as much. I have to admit I was a little tentative with it all as I didn’t know what to expect, and even if I’d passed my integration exam, was still unsure what level of Dutch was necessary. While it was a rare opportunity literally staring me in the face – I could clearly see the polling center from our balcony – I was wading in uncharted waters and crossing my fingers I wouldn’t end up in over my head.
Eager beavers that we were, we walked into the polling office at half past 7 while people were still getting tables and chairs ready. I followed my partner’s lead and stood on one side looking at what he was doing and what I was supposed to do as well. After getting my ballots – plural! – I went to the booth feeling like the unsure virgin that I was. I instinctively unfolded the two large pieces of paper, laid them on top of each other, and looked at the row upon row of unfamiliar names under equally unfamiliar parties. Thankfully, I did a sort of questionnaire the night before to see which political party I met minds with the most so I limited my choices to the names under that group.
After about 3 minutes, I was done, though apparently that was double the time than how my partner went through his. All in all, we were in and out of there in less than 5 minutes.
In the end, I was glad I got to participate in this country’s political process and did my civic duty. I can only now hope that the deserving win and make people’s lives here even better. Now is there anyone here who can I talk to about these taxes?!