Phew. We got to election day without another community outbreak. No wonder so many people voted early, though I haven't. There's something I love about voting on the day.
It's the quietness, I think. The reverence.
The superheated nonsense of the campaign is over and instantly almost forgotten. Even the hoardings have disappeared overnight. The applicants have retired to await our decision and it feels unhurried, not at all harassed.
And it is a decision, not a comment, a protest, a prayer or an appeal — a decision.
I don't know about anyone else but I always find marking the ballot paper immensely different from political discussion. The demand for a decision congeals everything I think, believe and value until I'm left with a hard core of conviction that this option, not the other, is what the country needs right now.
I'm sometimes surprised at the decision but never regretted it. I know the discipline that was imposed on my thinking by the act of making the decision and I respect it. I hope every voter experiences that discipline. I think they do. That's why democratic decisions deserve respect, and why it has been so hard to understand the decision Americans made four years ago.
In just over two weeks they can at last correct that mistake, but an election might not end their nightmare. They face the terrible possibility that an unsuitable president will refuse to leave office if the vote goes against him because he will not believe the result. Narcissism is a mental illness that makes it impossible to believe you could be wrong.
America is discovering how fragile the foundations of democracy can be. Western countries take it for granted people will relinquish power when they lose a vote, but this is remarkable when you think about it, and rare in the rest of the world.
How fortunate we are to be voting with confidence that the leader of the losing party will gracefully concede and wish her rival well.
Our democratic culture is even stronger than I realised three years ago. More than once I expressed misgivings for the country's acceptance of a government that, for the first time under MMP, was led by a party that had not won the election. Well, I was wrong.
A coalition of parties coming second, third and fourth past the post has not had its legitimacy seriously challenged. Both major parties are now in a position to benefit from that possibility. If we get a similar outcome from today's election, nobody will be in a position to criticise it. MMP has passed a test.
We might be ready for a couple of other constitutional changes raised in the course of this year's campaign: a four-year parliamentary term and lowering the voting age to 16.
I'd favour a lower age. I would have been a more sensible voter at 16 than I was when I finally got the vote. At 16 I was I was listening to wisdom, at 18 I was an idiot.
At 16, in high school, we had a fine, elderly teacher who encouraged discussion of the New Zealand economy and its problems at that time. I remember wakeful nights trying to imagine how we might turn around New Zealand's declining terms of trade.
At the next election I went to hear the leaders live, though I couldn't vote. I was there when students heckled Keith Holyoake unmercifully throughout his televised opening to a fourth successful campaign.
Three years later, when I could vote, I looked as shaggy as a sheep and acted like one, marching against Vietnam, denigrating Anzac Day, dodging the draft. My first vote was for Norman Kirk because he promised to end compulsory military training, and did. When I grew up I rather wished I'd had that experience.
A four-year term was favoured by all party leaders when asked during this campaign. No wonder: who'd want to re-apply for their job every three years? From their point of view a five-year term, as in the UK, would be even better.
But longer terms often produce early elections called by governments that want a stronger mandate or endorsement of something they have done, or simply rate their chances of re-election better than they will be when the term expires. I'm not sure that's desirable.
A four-year term might produce shorter governments in New Zealand even if early elections did not happen. The life of most of our governments has been nine years. By year seven or eight the country usually tires of them. I doubt many would win a third election for a four-year term.
The old saying holds true that three years may be too short for a good government but four years is too long for a bad one.