It was my first time. I had waited 19 years and I was understandably very excited. But when it actually happened it was a terrible anticlimax. Was that it? I thought to myself as I smoked a cigarette afterwards. Was that what all the fuss was about? The location - a synagogue hall, as I remember - was not the most glamorous and I was left wondering whether I had even done the right thing - after all I was only a teenager. Maybe I should have waited until I was older. Since then I've done it another four times and it has never been remotely satisfying.
Every time I cast my vote I
wonder whether we could do something to make the experience somehow feel more meaningful.
Turnouts in general elections have been falling for decades now and I suspect that the polling station experience has something to do with it.
You go into a draughty public library or primary school building, you are shown into a rather shabby booth and given a pencil and a piece of paper.
Each time I try to draw out the process to make it last more than 20 seconds. Then I mark my cross, place my ballot paper in the box and head for the exit where dodgy looking people with colourful rosettes stand outside asking me for my number. It is most unnerving.
“Everyone is treating the debates as political X Factor - so start off with Nick Griffin and George Galloway”
The established view is that young people do not vote because they have lost faith in the political system.
But I think it's because voting is just not entertaining enough. Why hold the poll in boring old schools? Young people are fed up with them. Have the vote in pubs, nightclubs and bagel bars. Offer free drinks and a chance to go into a prize draw to win a Vauxhall Corsa or a date with David Miliband.
We could force all the candidates to perform karaoke and give kids the chance to throw wet sponges at them.
Or how about revolutionising the voting system altogether? I'm not talking about the additional vote, the party list method or multi member constituencies but something much more entertaining.
With the introduction of televised debates we are missing a trick. Seeing as everybody seems to be treating the debates as a kind of political X Factor, why not capitalise on this by moving with the times?
We should start off with a wide group of leaders performing auditions.
On the first night we would get rid of Nick Griffin, George Galloway and a few other no hopers, and send the remaining leaders to boot camp to work on their policies and presentational style.
In the second debate, the two lowest polling leaders, probably Plaid Cymru's Ieuan Wyn Jones and the SNP's Alex Salmond, would be asked to sing for survival (my money's on the Welsh guy).
In the final debate, with only three party leaders left, the public would be asked to eliminate one of David Cameron or Gordon Brown, leaving the survivor to form an on-screen coalition with Nick Clegg before a grand finale with Andrew Lloyd-Webber on piano and ballroom dancing featuring the leaders and their wives.
It would not differ greatly from the current poltical process… it would just be a little more