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Christopher Pyne: The Crazy Rituals I Always Performed In The Final Hours Before An Election

It’s hard to believe the five weeks of the this election campaign are almost over.

It’s rushed past (at least for the political tragics, candidates, commentators, journalists, political staffers, pundits, pollsters and all their workmates and families). Do we really have to wait another three years to do it all again?

Apart from the categories mentioned, I imagine most Australians can’t wait for the campaign to be over.

But spare a thought for the candidates in these last few hours.

I’ve been one -- 10 times since 1989. I ran in my first campaign at the age of 21. I cut my teeth in the state seat of Ross Smith against the then-Premier of South Australia, John Bannon. It was a very safe Labor seat, but I achieved a swing above the state average in that election. It was a start. Since then, I’ve contested the federal seat of Sturt in South Australia and won nine times in a row.

Forgive me, but I’m a little obsessive and a little superstitious.

I used to HAVE to do the same thing I did in the previous winning campaign as my election-eve routine every Friday night before the election and every election day. Any attempt to get me to see out the last 36 hours of the campaign differently was doomed to failure. It just didn’t happen.

On the Friday night before the polls opened the next day, I would go to the same McDonald's on Magill Road at Trinity Gardens and order the exact same meal: a vanilla thickshake, a Quarter Pounder, regular fries and a cheeseburger. Don’t ask me why I had a cheeseburger as well as a Quarter Pounder, I just did. Get over it, girlfriend.

Then I spent the night travelling around the polling booths in Sturt, checking on the volunteers who had put up the booth dressing in the largest polling booths in order to get the best spots, calling volunteers who hadn’t turned up, getting volunteers out of bed who had set up their booths and gone home (not expecting me to appear at their booth at two in the morning to bring them a coffee and a donut!)

I know -- ridiculous.

On election day itself, I would visit as many booths as possible in the morning before I konked out (usually around 10 am), having had no sleep or an hour or two at best.

By 6 pm, my nerves would be a jangling mess and I would set up in my electorate office to receive the results from the scrutineers at each of the polling booths.

By 9 to 10 pm, I would know that I had won and whichever benighted volunteers and staffers had weathered this ordeal with me would limp to the Sturt election-night party for a well-earned beer and Samboy Salt and Vinegar chips (no fancy catering with donated funds).

Those 36 hours are the worst of the campaign. The result is largely out of the candidates' hands. You look for every nuance from the voters you meet and you try to win all the one percenters. But, basically, the punters have worked out what they are doing and you can't find the ones that haven’t anyway!

READ MORE: Why Public Transport Etiquette Should Be An Election Issue

READ MORE: Why Australia Should Ditch Paper Ballots And Switch To Online Voting

This next 36 hours will be entirely new to me compared to the past three decades of running for election and re-election. I won’t know what to do with myself. But I’ll still be like a cat on a hot tin roof until the result is known. I can’t help it -- once a candidate, always a candidate…

So spare a thought for those who put themselves forward to be judged by their fellow citizens -- they may not be everyone’s cup of tea but without them, our democracy can’t function.

Christopher Pyne will be a guest on 10 News First's Your Vote Election Coverage live from 5 pm Saturday on 10 and 10 daily. 

Listen to Hugh Riminton and Peter Van Onselen in The Professor and The Hack discuss all things #Auspol. 

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