Friday, April 20, 2012


A large brown envelope arrives in the mail. Inside are 10 campaign flyers, perhaps an updated voting card and 10 thin slips of paper about the size of an index card. Each carries the name of a presidential candidate.

On Sunday, with your paper names in hand, you go to the local bureaux de vote. You take one last glimpse of all the candidates' faces plastered on the wall before you walk inside, take a small blue empty envelope, enter an 'isoloire', choose a paper name and place it in the envelope. Then you seal it, slip it in the transparent 'urne justement', have your voting card stamped and voila, you're done.

Take that, you sad chad.

It's a voting system that sounds somewhat archaic, but damn, it really works.

And the French seriously turn out to vote. Voter turnout is normally high - higher than the US, that's for sure.

The French are also serious about abstention - voter abstention, that is. The presidential runoff in 2002 saw a markedly high abstention rate and there is concern people will stay away from the polls, or white vote, again this Sunday.

A white vote, or blank vote, can be a vote done in a way to show ones dissatisfaction with the choice of candidates or with the current political system.

In France, a white vote can be as simple as not showing up to vote, but for the most part it is expressed by placing more than one paper name in your envelope. Place two, ten - even none or tear a name in two. Seal the envelope shut -  à voté.

The right to vote in France commenced in 1848, and by 1913 voting became private, with each citizen placing their choice in an envelope which was then deposited into an urne, or ballot box. In 1944, women were given the right to vote.

Click here to view 'Les élections municipales du 29 avril 1945' which includes personalities such as singer Marie Dubas, scientist Madame Curie, actress Jeanne Boitel and Yvonne De Gaulle engaged in the french voting process.

Current polls suggest less than 70% of voters will show up on Sunday. I'm not sure about that. Most people I've heard talking about the election plan to vote, they just have no clue whom to vote for. People are frustrated. Jobs are lacking, and the cost of living continues to increase. It's pretty crazy here.

The candidates have until Friday night to say their peace. Then it's tic-a lock, no more talk until 8:00 pm Sunday night when the results will be announced. Then, on to the big finale...

Phew boy - France, I wish you the best.

Paper names: Marine Le Pen, Eva Joly, President Nicholas Sarkozy, Jean-Luc Mélenchon, Phillippe Poutou, Nathalie Arthaud, Jacques Cheminade, Francois Bayrou, Nicolas Dupont-Aignan and Francois Hollande.
Let me Grow Up: Little Marianne asks De Gaulle in 1965.
The (Un)Official President's Portrait: Published in 2010 by the group Reporters Sans Frontieres.

Institut National de l'Audiovisuel:
an awesome web archive with historical radio and film programs from France.

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