Sunday, 23 March 2014

How do you prove who you are, when you are not who they think you are?

Just call me Rose
When we registered to vote in French local elections about 10 years ago, I didn’t put in too much thought about the consequences of my actions. The French (and the Dutch for that matter) have an obsession with only using maiden names for women. They do not realise that a woman in England can legally and forever change her name and that, that maiden name no longer exists, has no legal value and is non-traceable.

When I was young and first registering in The Netherlands I entered into endless arguments with officials about my name and at the end of the day, they did understand, not everyone addressed me by the name Nixon, but enough to keep me happy and all important official paperwork was in that name. When I arrived in France I was a lot older and more chilled out and took the approach, I couldn’t care less what you call me, I’ll answer to it anyway. It did not occur to me that I might have actually created a rod for my own back by not being argumentative.

For the first time, voters in small communes (less than 1000 people) were having to show identification when they went to place their votes. After waiting with excitement for polling day to arrive, it dawned on me yesterday, how do you show identification for a name that is not legally yours? So this morning when preparing for our election visit, out came the Big Folder, the one with all our paperwork, births, deaths, marriages and my cycling proficiency certificates and I proceeded to construct a legal paper trail to show that I was in fact not who they thought I was, but I am in fact, me.

Wrong Nixon
Armed with all this stuff and two passports with the name Nixon in them, off I went to vote. Our non-French national voting cards caused a bit of confusion, but they were stamped by the Mayor himself, so they were accepted and then on to attempt the vote itself. I popped into the voting booth and put the list I wanted to win in my blue envelop and then went to be crossed off the list to enable me to put my envelope into the ballot box.

Deep breath. Kiss, kiss from the Mayor who then went to the foreigners’ list. I took out my passport and started with “It’s a bit complicated”, to be met with “Oh don’t bother with that, I know who you are. Is that you?” pointing to a name he had never heard me use before. I agreed it was me and signed with the name Nixon and the deed was done. Oh how I love our little town.

On leaving the town hall we went to buy this morning’s paper and in it we found, that at the last minute the requirement for identification had been scrapped for small communes, because in small rural towns many old people don’t have any identification papers anyway. So despite all my worries, I was off the hook this time.

The next election will probably be next week, when we get to have the final fight for power in our little part of the world. But I think I am going to have to have that difficult discussion with the Town Hall one day soon and get my name changed to Nixon. I don’t want any more sleepless nights like last night!

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