NOW, I admit I am the kind of chap who can start an argument in an empty room. If there’s a row about a pointless principle to be had, then I’m normally the person having it.

So treat this cautionary tale as you wish as you go to vote in the General Election next Thursday. Many of you may fail to see the point, but I will make it anyway because every election almost without fail, I engage in some kind of petty dispute about it when I walk into the polling station.

It all centres on the party activists who gather in the reception areas and ask you to give them your polling card number as you walk in.

They do this as part of the process to identify who has and who hasn’t voted yet. If done efficiently, this could give enormous help to a candidate in a marginal seat because party activists, who have already identified their supporters through doorstep canvassing, could then go back out and encourage missing voters to get to the polls before closing time.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with any of this if done properly, and a well-oiled local party machine may even swing the election for a candidate.

However, call me petty – and I am sure you will – but I don’t like giving any of my polling details to members of parties I am not voting for.

Why should I assist them, even in this tiny way?

However, some of them stand there looking extremely official, and you would not blame any innocent member of the public for believing they are polling station workers as opposed to political activists. Most people, therefore, happily oblige by handing over their details without any prior thought.

I have yet to hear any of these activists ever preface their request for details with a declaration that they are working for a political party. If they did this, I would have no problem.

Naturally, they will argue they only want your basic number and that if you aren’t one of their supporters, it won’t make any difference.

But why should I help a party I am not voting for? Isn’t it my right to add more confusion and inefficiency to their process?

This complaint is not an indictment of any particular party; they all do it to my knowledge. Some even stand there together and share the information.

But they always look aghast at me when I refuse to tell them anything. Am I the only person on the planet to do this? Is it me or has the rest of the world gone mad?

Many years ago, I wrote a piece after being approached by a party activist at a polling station. I was about to give him my number when I realised he was wearing a rosette, and I rounded on the fellow for not prefacing his question with his party allegiance.

After my report was published, I was fiercely criticised by the party’s agent who presumably thought I was biased. I wasn’t. I have voted for all three main parties during my adult life and, as usual, I am still undecided as we approach the big day.

This is purely a case of me valuing my privacy in the polling booth. I don’t like this intrusion and I also don’t like giving any information away without first knowing where it’s going and how it’s going to be used.

You will say my journalists ask far more intrusive questions of the public and you will be right, but all of their questions should be prefaced with an explanation as to the fact the information is likely to be printed in a newspaper.

Many of you may disagree with me and say I am over-reacting as usual. And if you think that, I will forgive you.

I won’t, however, be so forgiving on this election if you commit the real cardinal sin – and fail to go to the polls. Whoever you support for whatever reason, you must go out on May 6 and use your vote.

Otherwise you will be letting down our whole system of democracy. I doubt anyone can call me petty for saying that.