I am not a number, I am a free man

Posted by @ 5:01 pm on Thursday 6th May, 2010.
Categories: A bit of a rant

Approaching the Polling Station the way ahead was clear and following close behind was a gaggle of retired folk. I went through the outer door and made for the entrance to the inner sanctum, where the officials reside. Mid-stride, I was accosted by an "unidentified, suited and clip-boarded older man" strategically positioned in the foyer.

"What's your number?" he asked, sharply and without any semblance of manners.

"Are you talking to me?" I retorted.

"Yes. I need your number. The number on your polling card."

"Can I see your official ID?"

"Er, no, I don't have one."

"A name-badge, perhaps?"


"So what is your official responsibility here?"

"I record the numbers of the voters."

"Are you a proper election official?"

"Er, well, not quite."

"Well, you're not recording my number. I don't know who you are or what you'll do with my number. For all I know, you could peddle the data to the highest bidder regardless of the consequences, and judging by the way you haven't concealed the information taken from your previous victims, you appear to have no regard to the confidentiality of such information. I'll disclose my details to the properly-registered and approved officials in the other room - you have no right to ascertain my number, and I have no obligation to disclose it to you, so please stop harassing me. Oh, and next time, try using some manners... you know, those things that you older folk complain that "the youth of today" don't have. "

The gaggle of retired folk was by then in a state of confusion. It appeared that none of them had ever wondered what the "unidentified, suited and clip-boarded older man" did with the numbers. Quite a few of them had never realised that he wasn't even an official. Not many of them disclosed their numbers to him.

After voting, I walked back past the rude "unidentified, suited and clip-boarded older man" and went outside. A couple from the "gaggle" were waiting for me. I was expecting trouble, but instead got thanks and a handshake.

Knowledge, not politics, is power.

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10 Responses to “I am not a number, I am a free man”

  1. alan.sloman says:

    Stef: You met a 'teller'. He will be from one of the political parties in the election. He should have identified who he was and when asked he should have told you why he wanted your Poll Number.

    If his local political party is organised they will have done a 'canvass' - trying to determine how people - individuals- vote in their local area. With your number they will be able to identify who you are and they will know you have voted and perhaps, if you have told them from their canvass, how you are likely to have voted.

    This way they can collate all this information and see if any of their supposed supporters have not voted. This is the real point of it - If they find some of their supporters have not voted they can contact them and ask them to go out and vote.

    To obtain this information from you today he should of course have been polite. The man sounds like an idiot as now he does not have the information he requested because of his rudeness.

    He has no right to 'demand' this information - it is entirely up to the voter if they wish to pass on their Polling number to him. You were well within your rights to refuse this information.

    (I did two stints of 'telling' today for the political party I support - we have really strict codes of conduct.)

    It's good that you have voted. Did you read Shirl's excellent post about voting?

  2. BG! says:

    Not read PW's post yet, but I will do so soon.

    I've met quite a few "tellers" in my years, but none as rude as this one.

    Just had a visit from Michael Mullaney (the LibDem candidate). In person, not one of his representatives. Nice chap.

    I can't remember ever seeing David "cash-for-questions, astrology software and intimate relationships course on expenses" Tredinnick during his 23-years as our MP, but that's hardly surprising as he lives in Billingshurst (West Sussex) with a second home in London. His constituency (Bosworth, Leicestershire) must be a foreign land to him.

  3. Metric Kate says:

    I got accosted by an officious woman wearing the colours of a party I don't support demanding my number. "Not giving it to YOU", I replied and marched past. Trouble is, the officious, clipboarded ones do confuse a lot of people because they make themselves look as if they're part of the polling station staff. Personally I think these people shouldn't be allowed on polling station property.

  4. BG! says:

    Wahey! Long time no see, Kate, I hope that you're well. I've been reading a few blog posts about your exploits in Scotland, looks like you've been having lots of fun 😀

    I'm led to believe that these "tellers" aren't allowed to tout in the actual polling room, and that anywhere outside that is fair game. I'm sure that Alan can shine a light on whether this info is correct.

    Some of these "tellers" can be counter-productive. My beloved says that she was almost certain who she was going to vote for, but the antics of the "teller", who represented that candidate, made her change her mind at the last minute.

    As an aside, I've been talking to a couple of folk who said that they couldn't vote in person due to the choice of venue - they are Roman Catholics and the polling station is in the hall of a different denomination of church. Although they only live about 40 yards from the polling station, they had to use the postal vote system. I wonder if this habit of using religious buildings as polling stations is a major factor in the poor turnout in some communities.

  5. Metric Kate says:

    I have indeed been having fun times gallivanting around Scotland, playing with sharp toys, and sleeping in snowholes. I am now about to embark on an even more exciting, though arduous, project: nearly 6 weeks of marking 🙁 Are you doing any walking these days, or spending all your time moongazing?
    Are church halls consecrated ground, as opposed to churches / chapels / other places of worship?

  6. PhilW says:

    I also did sessions as a teller many years ago. We often shared numbers between the different political parties - made it a little easier and allowed you to have a break. In recent elections there have seemed to be much less by way of canvassing and number taking. Indications of less interest in taking an active part in party politics perhaps?

  7. BG! says:

    Originally Posted By Metric Kate
    Are you doing any walking these days, or spending all your time moongazing?

    I take the few opportunities that I get for that walking malarkey, but they're few and far-between. I'll be wildcamping with Chris sometime soon, and we've a YHA booking in the autumn. No doubt I'll slip in the odd solo wildie before year-end, and possibly another outing with Frank and Mike if they're up for it. I do miss the OM meets, though - the social side of those things was good. The astronomy thing suffers due to the weather, as you'd expect, but it's a convenient pastime.


    Originally Posted By PhilW
    We often shared numbers between the different political parties - made it a little easier and allowed you to have a break.

    Sounds like a good plan. I've nowt against tellers, they perform a useful function, it's just the crap attitudes of the few that spoils the reputations of the many.


    Originally Posted By Alistair
    Well done Stef! Proud of you 🙂

    You can depend on me to stir the pot of ambiguity with the spoon of reason :mrgreen:

  8. Chris Highcock says:

    Having been a teller myself on occasion we have always been told the rules. It is very clear that you are not allowed to demand numbers nor act in any pseudo-official manner. Sometimes we have been told to wear a rosette (without a candidates name) and in others nothing. The key thing is that anything that can be said to be attempting to sway opinion is banned.

    I would have told the officer in charge of the station and asked them to send the teller away.

  9. BG! says:

    Hmm... things are getting interesting. I've been chatting to a few folk that used the same polling station yesterday and the description of the teller that they met doesn't match the bloke that I encountered. If only they'd each had some sort of ID, this ambiguity would not have arisen. I wouldn't want the "nice" teller to read this and think that I was having a go at him. Maybe the one that I met wasn't really a teller at all - without them having to provide and display proper ID it'd be hard to tell a real teller from a bogus one.

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