Roni and the Italian Referendum

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I flew from Lyon to Venice.  Stefano had to work, so I was picked up by his parents, who held a sign with my name on it.  His dad is very tanned (as he is Sicilian) and his mother is light-skinned with frizzy brownish-reddish-blondish hair.  They said hello and asked if I wanted a coffee.  The implication seemed to be that we could stop and have a coffee before we left the airport.  That was an odd one to me.  A question that I just couldn’t picture outside of Italy.

Leaving the airport, I saw US Air Force and Slovenian license plates.  Stefano’s dad explained that Stefano was working at the polling site for a national referendum.  We drove to their house.  While driving, I saw fermata on the bus stop.  You tend to see various musical terms in Italy as legitimate parts of the language, such as piano for the floors of a building.

We had dinner later on.  Chicken skewers, cheese, fruit.  A big laugh when Stefano’s dad accidentally poured olive oil into his wine glass, as they both were in glass bottles of roughly the same design.

After dinner, Stefano had to go back to work at the polling site.  I begged to go with him.  Stefano thought it would be boring.  I was convinced that it would be interesting, no matter what happened.

Plus, it was only an hour of work.  Stefano said that he was supposed to be there at 9:00 PM.  We ended up showing up at 9:15 PM, after stopping to buy gelato for the people at work.  It turned out he was actually supposed to be there at 8:30 PM, so he apologized and said that the gelato was on him.

Stefano introduced me to a guy that was in a higher position than him at the polling place.  Said fellow was a fairly short guy with a well-trimmed goatee and excellent English due to his time spent in Independence, MO in the American Field Service.  He showed me around the site, including the special unerasable pencils that they use.

When people arrive, they have lists of voters by gender.  I said that back home, they have them split up alphabetically, A-F, G-M, etc.  He was very surprised and said that it was an excellent idea that I should share with the other officials.

Some other things:

  • People come in with electoral sheets that are stamped when you check in.  There are 18 empty spaces.  When you fill it, you have to go to an office to get a new sheet.
  • Ballot boxes in Italian = urnas

Some quotes from my election tour guide:

  • It’s boring because nobody cares.
  • All of this is just a waste of money and time.

Technically, his second quote was accurate.  For the referendum to be passed, 50% of the populace needed to vote.  That was never going to happen on something that a lot of people didn’t care about, so the vote didn’t count for much.  The guy also explained different paperwork that is done to prevent fraud.  He said that it wasn’t that necessary in such a relatively small place, plus it could be worked around and that he was fairly certain that in the south of Italy and bigger cities there was a decent amount of election fraud.

The guy showed me an official stamp that was given by Rome to certify the ballots.  I asked if I could have a stamp in my notebook and he obliged, even going so far as to sign it.  This pleased me greatly.

Speaking to Stefano and his father at lunch the next day, they assumed that all voting in the United States was done electronically.  When I said that in Washington State, it’s all done by mail, Stefano’s father thought I meant e-mail.  When I explained, no, by post, he thought that was really bizarre (probably even more so, considering he is a manager at an Italian post office).

Walking back from lunch with Stefano’s dad, someone on a bike said hi.  It amused me greatly that it was the guy that I had spoken to the night before at the polling site.  I asked Stefano’s dad if he knew the guy also.  He said no.  Having been in Oderzo for less than a day, who would have guessed that the only person that knew either of us, would have known the visiting American that begged to go to the polling site.


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