Ballots, barbeques, and barks: quirky election traditions from around the world

Blog about politics, elections and scottish public affairs with an image of dogs at polling stations
Following Thursday’s by-election in Rutherglen and Hamilton West, our newest hire and PA account executive, Will Norton, looks at election traditions around the world.

The results from Rutherglen and Hamilton West continue to be dissected by the media with analysis already provided from every possible angle. Spoiler alert: it’s bad for the SNP and Conservatives but great for Labour.

For those who don’t know, our office is very multicultural with people from all four corners of the globe: Canada, Australia, Yorkshire, and Dundee – to name a few. With the by-election underway this week and a pre-planned ‘Sausage Sizzle’ – an Australian barbeque – on the day, we naturally got talking about election traditions here and abroad. It turns out that a sausage sizzle is a key feature at polling stations around Australia!

All of this got me thinking about elections around the world and the weird and wacky traditions that have developed on election day and so, this blog was born…

United Kingdom: Dogs at Polling Stations

This tradition is a personal favourite. In the 2010s, with the rise of social media platform Twitter (now X), came the hashtag ‘Dogs at Polling Stations’ – and some wholesome election content was born. The premise is very simple – you take a photo of your dog outside a polling station where they look highly adorable, and the owner can show they have exercised their democratic rights. This new tradition has since caused a media frenzy, with the BBC almost always running a separate news thread on election days of pictures of dogs sitting patiently outside polling booths up and down the country. No matter who you vote for or how your election day pans out, #dogsatpollingstations never fail to add a little bit of wholesomeness to the day.

Australia: Sausage Sizzle

When our resident Aussie, Georgia, floated the idea of having a ‘Sausage Sizzle’ at Pagoda, we were all quite confused, but were soon introduced to this tasty Australian election tradition. Essentially, it’s a BBQ outside the polling station where you get a freshly sizzled sausage after voting. What an idea! A slice of bread, put in a ‘snag’ diagonally, add toppings and Bon Appetit!


A sausage in bread at a barbecue

We enjoyed our own sausage sizzle on Thursday and immediately jumped upon the hype train. Despite the typical Scottish weather, we made the most of it and loved every second; we can see why this is an Australian tradition!

Mexico: No Vodka and Voting

Though we have restrictions on the time of day vodka (or any alcohol) can be purchased in the UK, we generally don’t have whole prohibited days. However, in some Mexican states alcohol is banned from being sold up to one or two days before polling day. The reason behind this? ‘To promote a way of voting that’s peaceful and where people have all five senses intact’. There’s food for thought in this tradition.

Estonia: Logging in to Vote

It may be hard to imagine NOT walking down to your local community centre, church, or primary school to cast your ballot, but in Estonia they don’t have to do any walking: the lucky Estonian electorate can vote online from home. Since 2005, it has been possible to vote online and in the 2023 Estonian Parliamentary Elections more than half of the votes were cast online for the first time ever. It seems so different from the polling booth, but this new normal in the Baltic may soon be spreading over Europe as tech becomes more incorporated into our lives. Bulgaria joined Estonia in 2021 by conducting most of their election online and who knows, maybe the UK will follow suit one day.

Election traditions may seem silly, but they quickly become a valued part of a country’s democratic process. Whether it’s looking at dogs, eating a sausage, staying off the tequila or simply logging into your laptop to vote, it adds some fun to an election.

So, for the upcoming by-elections in Mid Bedfordshire and Tamworth, why not stay off the vino and get the barbeque out – you might just like it!


Latest News