34w, 1dPolitics in Equestria
A layer of thick, flat clouds gathered on the horizon the day of the election. Ponyville was due for its first snowfall of the year, but the pegasus weatherponies had decided to hold it off for an extra day to give everypony a chance to make it to the polls. Despite the clear sun shining down on Ponyville, the crisp chill in the air made it clear that winter was nearly at hoof.
Ponies huddled together against the cool morning air while they waited in line to vote. A team of volunteers staffed a table at the head of the line, registering voters and distributing ballots. Behind the table stood a row of voting booths, their heavy blue curtains providing their occupants with privacy as they marked their ballots. On the other side of the booths, still more volunteers collected the baskets of ballots and set to work counting them out. Off to the side, Apple Bloom and Granny Smith had set up a stand to sell hot cider to chilly voters.
Applejack stepped behind the curtain and placed the ballot in front of her where she could study it. Her first instinct was to mark Twilight Sparkle's box and be done, but it would be irresponsible of her to make her decision based solely on the fact she was her friend. The pen hung in her mouth as she pondered. Miss Mayor's always done all right by us Apples, she thought, but then, Twilight's a real smart cookie. She got Winter Wrap-up whipped into shape, after all. Applejack winced, remembering runaway plows and avalanches. Well, after a couple false-starts, anyway.
The orange earth pony rubbed the brim of her hat with her hoof. Aw hay, this is a tough one! She could hear a hoof tapping impatiently outside her booth. The line had already been long when Applejack had arrived, and it was only going to get longer as the sun climbed. Besides which, she needed to get back to work. May as well get on with it, she thought, and brought the pen down on the ballot.
Pushing the completed ballot through the slot, Applejack trotted out of the booth, paying no heed to the impatient glares of the ponies standing outside. She had apples to buck, after all.
Fluttershy peered at her ballot from behind her mane. She wore an expression as though she thought it would grow teeth and bite her. I don't want to hurt Twilight's feelings, she thought, clenching her pen between her teeth, but I don't want to hurt Miss Mayor's feelings, either. She blinked as the dilemma played out in her head. Twilight was her good friend, of course, but it might be rude to the Mayor if she gave Twilight special treatment because of it.
The pegasus gasped. What if Twilight doesn't want to be mayor? Her thoughts flitted back to her short-lived modeling career, and how awful it had been to be roped into something she had not wanted to do.
Her eyes flicked back and forth between the two boxes on her ballot. Of course, it was a secret ballot, so nopony would know who she voted for, but she would know who she voted for. Her breath became more and more rapid, until it culminated in a panicked squeak.
Fluttershy glanced at the curtain behind her in embarrassment. She hoped nopony had heard that. She forced her breath to slow down. She knew what to do now.
The yellow pegasus softly muttered, “I'm sorry,” and pushed a blank ballot through the slot.
A brown-coated volunteer cocked his head incredulously. “Excuse me?”
The cyan pegasus crossed her hooves in front of her chest, hovering at eye-level. “Just put me down for Twilight Sparkle,” she said.
The volunteer frowned. “Miss, this is a secret ballot.”
“Don't care, just mark me down for Twilight,” she said impatiently.
“Th-that's not how this works,” he stammered. “You have to take your ballot into the booth there and—.”
“Fine, whatever.” Rainbow Dash rolled her eyes. She grabbed a pen, placed a mark in Twilight Sparkle's box, and zipped into the nearest voting booth.
“Hey,” the booth's occupant cried as a chromatic blur whooshed in and out of the curtain.
Rarity stood before her ballot, rubbing her chin in thought as her pen levitated in a light blue magical aura. On the one hoof, I simply adore the color of that collar the Mayor wears, she thought, it really complements her eyes quite nicely. Her pen hovered over the Mayor's checkbox, but stopped.
On the other hoof, Twilight did say she would try and bring that import of those fabulous Mareasian silks in to Ponyville. The white unicorn frowned in concentration. Before long, a solution presented itself to her.
I wonder how Twilight would look in one of those ruffled collars, she pondered as she pushed her completed ballot through its slot.
Pinkie Pie stood blinking at the piece of paper before her. The clear metric to use in this decision was who would throw the best party if they won.
I've been to lots of Twilight's parties, and they've all been a blast, Pinkie thought to herself, but that might just be because I was the one throwing them. A bit of confetti spilled out of her mane and drifted to the floor. I haven't been to very many of the Mayor's parties, but she must throw some pretty good ones, if she's been mayor all this time.
The pink pony came up with an idea, and began scribbling on the ballot. Humming happily, Pinkie Pie bounced out of the voting booth.
The last of the voters filed out of the booths just before sundown. It took the volunteers well into the night before they could finish tallying the results. Twilight finally had to take Spike home and put him to bed. The little dragon was simply unable to stay awake, no matter how excited he was.
The library was dark when Twilight arrived, Spike slung across her back. She did not want to turn the lights on and wake him, so she just summoned a dim glow from her horn to light the way up to Spike's bed.
“Goodnight, Spike,” she whispered, tucking her assistant beneath the covers. The baby dragon murmured quietly and rolled onto his side.
Twilight smiled. As she lifted her head, the glow of her horn caught on a book she had left open on her bed that morning. She knew she needed to get back to hear the election results, but habit and curiosity drew her eyes to the yellowed pages.
Twilight's eyes widened as she read. She doubled back and re-read the passage, just to be sure. “I need to tell them!” she exclaimed, and levitated the book into her saddlebags.
The volunteers' table murmured and muttered as they went over their tallies one last time. The votes had been checked, and re-checked, and they were finally ready to announce the results of the day's election.
A chilly breeze bit into the Mayor’s beige coat. She bit her lip in anticipation as a green stallion with a volunteer tag stood up and cleared his throat.
“As of our final counting,” he said, “we have 48 percent for Miss Mayor, 51 percent for Miss Sparkle, and one write-in for,” he squinted at the scroll in front of him, “for Pinkie Pie,” he concluded.
The Mayor—no, scratch that, the former mayor—'s heart sank straight to the pit of her stomach. I lost, she thought numbly. She suddenly found she had trouble balancing, so she lowered herself to her haunches. She was no longer the Mayor anymore, just an old mare.
The tan pony's mind drifted glumly over what would become of her. She wondered if Just Law still needed an assistant. The old politician had been bugging her to lend him one of her own staffers for years now. Boy, will he be surprised when I show up at his door myself looking for work.
Miss Mayor scarcely heard the frantic pounding of hooves until she was practically bowled over by a breathless Twilight Sparkle
“Oof, sorry Miss Mayor!” she said, skidding to a stop. A heavy book was bulging out of the unicorn's saddlebag. “They haven't read the final tally yet, have they?”
The tan pony sniffed, then resolved to straighten her back up. She would at least face this with some dignity. “Actually, they have,” she said. “Congratulations, Miss Sparkle. You are the new mayor of Ponyville.”
Twilight shook her head. “No, I'm not.”
The former Mayor blinked. Sure, there was still technically a month of lame-duck sessions left in her term before Twilight would take office, but Twilight Sparkle was essentially already mayor. Was she playing games with her now? The tan pony felt stung.
Twilight addressed the group of volunteers, who were stretching their legs after the long day of counting. “Everypony, can I have your attention? There's been a mistake.”
Everypony, the Mayor included, watched in confusion as the new mayor-elect lifted the large book out of her saddlebag. In the glow of the firefly lamps, she recognized the old tome as a copy of the town charter. The tan mare looked on in curiosity as Twilight flipped through the dusty pages.
After a moment of searching, the unicorn seemed to find the passage she had been looking for. “Section eight, part three of the Ponyville Town Charter, subsection twenty six B,” she read aloud. “No pony who holds or in the past year has held a public position of importance in the Equestrian central government or the local governing of Canterlot shall be eligible to take the office of Mayor of Ponyville.” She put her hoof on the page. “The founders put this rule in here to keep Ponyville from becoming a pawn for the nobility in Canterlot.”
Twilight was met with a lot of uncomprehending stares. “It means I'm disqualified,” she said.
The Mayor frowned. “But Twilight, you haven't even lived in Canterlot for far more than a year, let alone held office there.”
Twilight shook her head. “That doesn't matter. As Princess Celestia's personal student, I technically count as part of the central government. I have a monthly expenses allowance from the Royal Treasury for my friendship studies,” she explained. “I am disqualified from this election. Congratulations, Miss Mayor.”
The frown remained on the Mayor's face. While part of her was delighted that she was going to keep her job after all, this felt like sliding by on a technicality. Twilight had won the popular vote; the ponies of Ponyville had spoken. “Twilight,” she said, “may I see that?”
The tan mare coughed slightly as she was handed the charter. The brittle pages ran under her hoof as she studied the passages. “I think I have an idea,” she said.
A hazy winter sun gleamed through the thin cloud cover, sparkling on the clean white blanket of snow that rested on the rooftops of Ponyville. Crystal clear icicles hung from the eaves of buildings, scattering silvery glimmers of morning light across the slowly rousing town.
Equestria was a month deep into winter, and brightly-colored decorations were already being put out for the coming Hearth's Warming Eve celebration. Red ribbons hung from the highest branches of the great oak that housed Ponyville's library, contrasting pleasantly with its magically-sustained green leaves. From within, the sound of hooves could be heard, tramping excitably from one end of the library to the other.
“Spike,” Twilight called, nosing open a drawer in her dresser, “what happened to that collar Rarity gave me?”
An irritable grumble issued from the pile of blankets on Spike's bed. “Lemme alone. I wanna try that 'hibernation' thing.”
Spike yelped in surprise as his bed was magically lifted off the floor. “No, not under there,” Twilight said and set her assistant's bed back down. “I need to look presentable. It's my first day, and the Mayor is going to want help planning the Hearth's Warming pageant.”
The purple unicorn opened her closet, rearing up on her hind legs to see into the top shelves. “How did this get in here?” she pondered, taking out an eyepatch.
Spike growled and rolled out of his bed. He stomped down the stairs to where Twilight's saddlebags hung next to the door. “You never put it away after your last visit to Rarity,” he said, fishing the ruffled violet collar out of the canvas pouch.
Twilight levitated the collar out of his hands to fasten it around her neck. Then, after a moment of thought, she trotted over and lifted her assistant in a hug. “Thank you, Spike.”
The little dragon peeled himself out of her hooves. “Yeah, well,” he said, rubbing the back of his neck. “Can I go back to bed now?”
“Sorry, but no you can't,” the lavender mare said, turning to find a brush and a mirror. “I need you to keep the library open while I'm at Town Hall. And I'm expecting a few packages in the mail today, and we're running low on ink.”
Spike's shoulders sagged.
“We both have a busy day ahead of us,” Twilight continued, brushing her mane. “After all, you're now the assistant of Ponyville's new Vice-Mayor!”