Up before birds and the crack of dawn on election day, this reporter arrived at Kings High way Elementary School to find five earlier birds ahead of her waiting for the polling place to admit voters.

What was amazing: Myriad candidate signs bordered both sides of the school driveway within the 75-foot limit meant to keep electioneering away from voters approaching the school's doors.

Here's why: Not one candidate or campaign woker was in sight at 5:45 a.m on the approach to the polling place.

That was possibly due to candidates sleeping in, exhausted from the fatigue of electioneering up to midnight on Nov. 1.

Once inside the polling place, meanwhile, the election poll watcher in charge, peering at his watch like a train conductor on the verge of announcing "all aboard," told folks:

* "Keep single file."

* "I cannot let you start the voting process until 6 a.m. on the dot."

* No coffee or food allowed beyond this point."

When the great moment arrived to go inside the voting area, we reached a fork in the approach. Those whose last names ran from A to L trotted off to the right; those whose last names began with M to Z sprinted to the left.

Photo IDs were pulled out of pockets, purses and wallets and displayed on command. Vote tellers looked at IDs and checked names and addresses from two sets of identical documents prepared by the Registrar of Voters staff weeks earlier. Each read name of the resident at that address out loud. Authenticity of voter, therefore, was double checked; no ringers allowed.

There followed an advance of about 100 paces to a voting attendant, who presented a ballot in a legal size file folder to the voter: Me.

The next step, with no waiting, was taken as the attendant guided me into the private voting booth.

In the privacy of that place, looking over my shoulder, I took my ballot from the folder. Candidates' names were arranged by party, and the names ran horizontally across the document. Beside each name was an empty oval. One voted for a candidate by filling in the oval, using a special marker attached to the voting booth.

"Fill it completely to make sure you vote correctly," was the printed instruction on the back side of the ballot.

Once that was done, I was told to put the completed ballot inside the file folder, not allowing anyone to see it. I was instructed to feed ballot into an electronic machine that seemed to inhale it. The ballot disapeared quicker than Jack jumped over a candlestick.

That was it. My "citizen's duty" - voting - was completed for the 2010 nudterm election.

The process, not counting a 10-minute wait for the polls to open, took five minutes. I think that's because I made my mind up weeks ago about how I would vote; I didn't have to puzzle over selection.

The only problem for me was navigating the exit corridor piled with bags and big platters of sweets on sale by the King's Highway PTA. The aroma from the $2-a-cup coffee, part of the PTA fundraiser, was overpowering and tempting, too.

But 89 cent-a-cup coffee down the street offered a $1.11 saving, which appeared the prudent and savvy thing to do, in view of the fact that economy was cited by all candidates as a key issue in this midterm election.