lessons from America

An early vote for Obama

When I was in Denver, I fulfilled a long-held ambition …..

Sadly – and to clarify – no, I did not vote.  This isn’t my ballot paper and nor did I get to fill it in (despite asking very nicely).  This Denver ballor paper belongs to Hunter, who showed it to me over the weekend; before he completed it and early voted in a polling station near his work. 

My ambition though had been to see an actual ballot paper close-up and just get a sense of it.  You can read the instructions as to how to fill it out, and also the beginning of the list of presidential candidates in the state of Colorado, by clicking on each of the photos below.


The ballot paper starts with the presidential race, then the Senate, then the local Congressional one.  And then the countless local council races and locally elected positions, like judge.  And that’s just on the first ballot paper ….

As modelled by Hunter below, there are in fact two large ballot papers for the voter to fill in.  

The second ballot paper is for the ballot initiatives – the referendum on specific measures amending the local/state constitution or mandating the local authority in charge to do something or spend money in a certain way. 

Despite the fact that I am about to stump for one of these ballot initiatives, I have my scepticisms.  Especially in a presidential race as hard fought and epoch-making as this one, local issues rarely get any kind of prominence or generate wide debate.  Voters often will not know much about what the candidates stand for; or even who they are.  And these initiatives often (and the Cincinnati one is a happy exception) end up being exceedingly negative; with the campaigns trading negative adverts and mud being flown everywhichway.  It doens’t have to be like this.  But as things stand I’m not sure what good it might do to export this ballot paper featue – and the strand of greater direct democracy it entails – to the UK.


October 31, 2008 - Posted by | counting votes, On the Campaign Trail | , , , ,


  1. What a fabulous photo of you holding the ballot paper!
    Keep up the good work.
    Lots of love
    Anne(your Mum)

    Comment by Anne Clark | October 31, 2008 | Reply

  2. Hi Malcolm,

    Just a quick note from Columbus, Ohio. Your post about the ballot paper is particularly interesting – the campaign here estimate it takes 18 minutes on average to fill it in. That, combined with the queues and other ways that is is made hard for people to register and vote (especially if they are working several jobs etc) has been one of the most eye-opening and disturbing things I’ve come across here. I really don’t think we can look at the turnout figures here and think they reflect the people who actually want to vote.

    Keep up the good work and see you back in the UK!

    Kate x

    Comment by Kate | November 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. I would have to disagree with Kate. Voting is super easy – people are around to register you to vote all over (for the past 4-5 months) – in front of supermarkets, on the street etc. – and it takes maybe 5 minutes to register. Especially with the paper ballots – you can drop them off at multiple locations without waiting in any line. Yes some people have to wait in long lines at polling stations (for proper in the booth voting) – but thats just how is goes. If you really want to vote it can be done – there is no excuse for someone not voting except for their laziness and/or ignorance and/or apathy.

    Comment by Hunter | November 4, 2008 | Reply

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