"So what?" I hear the more informed among you cry. "You don't need a polling card to vote."
You are of course perfectly correct. However, it is somewhat tricky to vote if a) you don't know what constituency you are in (and hence who the candidates are), and b) you don't know where the polling booth is.
"Ah, but surely these things can be ascertained via careful questioning of neighbours, or some cunning internet searching?"
Again, theoretically, you are correct. However, my cunning internet searching merely revealed that my building is very close to the constituency boundary, and that that boundary has/is being/will be changed. Take your pick. I'm fairly sure that the boundary for this election is not the same as the one for the last election, and it may be lined up for another change before the next one. Anyhoo, depending on where I searched, and which boundary I looked at, I could be in Oxford East (Labour extremely marginal, 4th Lib Dem target seat), or Oxford West and Abingdon (Lib Dem pretty darn safe). Hence the phone calls to the council.
I chose to phone Oxford City Council, as they are *my* council, even though they are only responsible for the Oxford East election (Oxford West and Abingdon comes under Vale of the White Horse, which is a much more excitingly named council, but might get confused if a person living in what is fundamentally central Oxford phoned them up).
Phone call number 1 (late last week or possibly early this week):
Me: "I don't have a polling card, and I didn't get one last election."
Lady: "Oh, well, they will be sent out in the next couple of weeks. Anyway, you can vote without a polling card, so don't worry"
Me: (thinks, aren't you even worried about the loss of polling cards?) "Um, yes I know that, but I'd like to know what constituency I'm in"
Lady: "It'll be on your polling card"
Me: "Yes, but I didn't get one last time. So I probably won't get one this time. I live is student halls and we don't have the ability to receive post. So could you maybe look it up for me?"
Lady: "Oh. OK." <looks me up on the electoral roll> "I wonder what that means?" <lady goes to check strange code with cow-orker> "Oxford West and Abingdon"
Me: "Thanks. It would be nice if you could fix the polling card thing though."
Lady: "I'll talk to the people in charge and make sure something is sorted out."
No progress occurs. No polling card arrives. I realise that I will also need to know where the polling station is. I ring back (yesterday).
Me: "Hi, I don't have a polling card, and I'd like to know where my polling station will be"
Lady (maybe the same one, not sure): "You don't need a polling card to vote, you know"
Me: "Yes, I know. But I do need to know where the polling station is."
<we go through the same rigmarole of me explaining about no polling cards and her promising to "do something", and also to ring me back with information about what they will do. In the meantime...>
Lady: "You're in Oxford West and Abingdon constituency and your polling station is the Wesley Memorial Church"
Now, I should have queried that. You see, I knew (from sneaking a peek at a polling card in the pigeon holes in college) that Wes Mem is the polling station for Oxford East. So either it was the wrong polling station, or the wrong constituency.
She didn't ring back, but today I spotted that there were polling cards in the open post boxes in the stairwell. I suspect they will stay there - basically nothing gets posted into them except flyers, so I may do a public service and distribute them if they're still there the weekend before the election. Still, it's progress, and I have a polling card.
Which confirms that my constituency is actually Oxford East, and not the constituency I was told on two separate occasions.
She did get the polling station right at least...