I cast my ballot


November 29, 2011

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    REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany, courtesy Trust.org - AlertNet  </span>
    Women stand in line during rain under an election poster outside a polling station as they wait to cast their votes during parliamentary elections in Alexandria. Photo: REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El-Ghany, courtesy Trust.org - AlertNet

This week, Egyptians began voting in their freest elections in decades after ousting President Hosni Mubarak earlier this year. Sherry Mikhael, Mercy Corps' operations officer in Egypt, recounts her experience yesterday casting a ballot in the historic elections.

The doors were supposed to open at 8 in the morning, and me and my mum were voting at the same school. (There were separate schools for women and men to vote.) We decided to go at exactly 8 so that we would be at the beginning of the line and finish early. But apparently a lot of Egyptians had the same idea.

Anyways, we went and stood in line. There were about 70 people in front of us. We kept waiting and became very good friends with people standing around us in line, since they didn't open the doors of the school until 12 or 12:30. They said the problem was that the papers were not there yet, and that was the same case for the whole neighborhood and some other neighborhoods.

Unfortunately, when some of the people found that the doors wouldn't open until noon, they left without voting.

After that, the papers came at around 11:30 a.m., so people thought, 'OK, that's it, we will start,' but that didn't happen. We kept wondering why until someone from inside came out and said they need six volunteers because they need people to help so that they can start (noting that by that time a lot of people were standing in chaos in front of the door, with no lines formed).

After six girls volunteered, they started. But due to the crowd in front of the door they closed the door, saying that no one will enter unless you are standing in line. So people who were standing in line started arguing with people who came late and wanted to enter before them, so they kept pushing the men standing at the doors and entering (yes, Egyptian women are strong!).

After that some of the women who were standing in the line came and formed a wall beside the first line that was formed, so that no one would enter except the ones in line. We finally started entering, and I went in at 2 p.m. There were supposed to be many rooms to vote in, but they told those of us in rooms 34 or 35 -- which was my room -- to please stand aside because there was something wrong with the names. So they went out to get new correct ones.

So we waited for a while, but then I discovered that my room was working fine (only room 34 had that problem) and I voted around 2:15 p.m.

When I left there was a traffic jam, because of the high number of people standing in the streets waiting for their turn to vote. Egypt has never had that amount of people voting before!

Some of my friends waited longer than me to cast their ballot. One went to another school also at 8 a.m. and left at 4:30 p.m. On the other hand, I had friends who left their houses at 10:15 a.m. and finished voting 15 minutes later.

In the end, it was a great experience.