Yes, I've voted, in my own time and place

''Don't Vote! It Only Encourages Them!'' I had always thought this was just a clever little bumper sticker slogan. Rather like its antithesis ''Vote Early! And Often!''

But I've realised that the command not to vote is actually a well-thought-out and common-sense suggestion.

The circus atmosphere of the recent election campaign and the antics of the clowns in the ring more than justifies wiping our hands of the whole business. Consequently, I resolved not to vote this time.

What a weight was lifted! Carefree now, I strolled the streets ignoring the placards, tore up the junk mail and refused to discuss politics in the pub with those poor misguided souls who now thought the trivia mumbled by the Prime Minister or the Labour man was relevant.

Men who at other times spoke with authority on Ben Smith's skills or the Sonny Bill Williams travesty. Mind you, CIA surveillance included Dan Carter's cellphone, apparently.

Naturally, guilt kicked in when I thought of the earlier generations who had fought and died to preserve our freedoms like the right to a democratic vote.

Mind you, their sacrifices had been made to preserve a political system free from the nonsense which is the recent exercise in democracy. They might have given an indulgent chuckle when told there was a party advocating liberalisation of marijuana use, but what would they have made of this Dotcom stuff?

In the trenches would they have hopped the bags for that?

On the day, mine was a special vote. I don't just mean special in that it was cast at all, but because it was cast in the bowling club in a small Central Otago town a few miles outside my electorate.

The day before I'd fronted up at a booth in my electorate but the queue stretched half a block down Filluel St and my new-found sense of citizenship did not extend to standing in line for half an hour to put ticks in boxes beside names I cared little about.

Mine was the first special vote the lady at the booth had handled but she had what appeared to be a 20-page booklet explaining the procedure to be adopted in dealing with those inconsiderate ingrates who haven't the decency to stay home to vote on the Big Day.

A bit of form filling and signing here, here and here meant I was in. My form was placed in a secret panel to go with the actual voting paper and I was directed to the cardboard booth. Private enough for the vote to remain secret but public enough to ensure that no vandalism or indecency could be committed.

Not like the old days. The colour of the felt-tip pen provided must have been worth a seat or two to the Greens but the Electoral Commission obviously hadn't thought of that. (Or had they? Lots of serious-minded people work there.

Even my opening gambit, ''Am I too late for Scotland?'' had been met with stony stares. Probably quite rightly).

A notice on the wall stated no photographs were to be taken. I'd never imagined anyone would take a camera to a polling booth but the officials pointed out that these days many people took ''selfies'' of all their activities, including the most intimate and disgusting.

These ''Here's Me Voting'' photos might flood the Facebook pages. ''What's wrong with that? Surely no worse than 'Here's me on the toilet'?''

Unfortunately, they could find no answer in the instruction booklet. I notice, though, that pictures of the leading political figures voting (genuine ''selfies'' those) appeared in the media. One rule for the rich and one for the poor, eh?

It was the first time I'd found the bar closed on a visit to the bowling club. A few locals had started up a conversation and a cool beer would have made it quite a convivial experience. My suggestion that the bar could be opened until polling closed was met with a gasp of horror.

I felt like a man who had suggested a game of cards during a funeral service. The whole thing was being taken far too seriously. No doubt the bowling club was being paid for the use of its rooms but imagine how much more could have been made with bar takings.

Of course, candidates would have to be banned from shouting, but these days they never do, do they?After all this, you're probably wondering how I managed to actually put a tick beside any of those names or parties I find so distasteful.

The sanctity of the cardboard booth means my lips are sealed but if you look at the results for Informal, Defaced or Mutilated you may get the hint.

I suspect they will be the parties to watch next time.

Jim Sullivan is a Dunedin writer and broadcaster.

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