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Wednesday, 16 May, 2001, 11:43 GMT
'Get me to the ballot box'

One down, 12,999,999 to go. BBC News Online users have scored a triumph against apathy by persuading one avowed non-voter to change her mind.

On Monday, Joanne Smith, a 26-year-old bank cashier from Kettering, Northamptonshire, set out her reasons why she wouldn't be voting at the forthcoming general election.

She is one of an estimated 13 million people who, according to some academics, will stay away from the ballot box on 7 June. The figure is considered to be abnormally high.

Joanne Smith
Joanne: "You changed my mind"
In January this year 64% of voters said they intended to vote at the coming election. This compares to 72% in January 1997 - four months before Tony Blair swept into Downing Street. Turnout at a general election has not fallen below 70% since 1918.

With this in mind, we asked you to try to change Joanne's intentions.

The e-mail response was overwhelming and having heard a selection of your arguments, Joanne has been persuaded. She will be voting on 7 June, although currently she is not sure for which party.

Click here to read some of your arguments and Joanne's responses.

These are Joanne's original reasons for staying at home on polling day.

Why I won't be voting, by Joanne Smith:
"A lot of the time I don't really understand what each party is standing for, what they want to do. I know a bit more about Labour and I agree with some of what they're doing, that we should be a more equal society. But I disagree with giving more money to single mothers. I've not really paid much attention to Hague.

I've never really been interested in politics. I think [politicians] need to communicate better

"I voted last year, but I can't remember who for. My housemate kept on at me, talking about how Suffragettes died for us so we could vote. She had to drag me down to the polling station. I think I voted once before as well.

"I've never really been interested in politics but maybe I should be. I think [politicians] need to communicate better although I'm not sure how. Maybe the fact that I'm single, I don't have any children, I'm not in and out of hospital, explains why politics doesn't have much impact on me."

Some of your (persuasive) arguments and Joanne's responses.

  • Government policies influence all aspects of life - how much holiday you get, how late you can drink, whether you are paid the same as a male colleague.
    Joanne: "I suppose politics is behind all these things. I'd not thought of it like that before."

  • If you can't remember who you voted for last time, and know nothing about politics then vote for the party that pledges to improve the British education system.
    Joanne: "Yes, it would have been useful to have learned at school about politics and why it's important to vote, if it is."

    I haven't a clue what's going on with the economy and that hasn't caused me any problems at work

  • Joanne shows the sort of selfish attitude that is a result of the 1980s.
    Joanne: "At the end of the day, I've got to look after myself. I suppose I am being selfish"

  • Compared to the sacrifices made by the Suffragettes, walking to the polling station is a small effort.
    Joanne: "I agree with that one. That's a very powerful point."

  • If you don't vote you can't complain about things like the poor bus service in Kettering.
    Joanne: "I use the buses quite a lot to get around in Kettering - I don't have a car. They are late sometimes, but generally they're quite good. I've no complaints to be honest."

  • A general election is a chance to quiz candidates about issues such as animal welfare, the Third World, or increased funding for British athletes.
    Joanne: "I agree. Animal welfare and the Third World are important issues. I'm not sure about the athletes though."

  • By voting you would at least cancel out the vote of someone you don't get on with.
    Joanne: "Good point."

    I just don't think about politics as much as some people. That doesn't mean I'm stupid

  • You work for a bank and they rely on a government that can provide a stable economy. That could make a difference to whether you stay employed.
    Joanne: "I haven't a clue what's going on with the economy at the moment and that hasn't caused me any problems at work."

  • Look at what happened in the election in the United States last November. A few votes can make a difference to who governs us.
    Joanne: "Yes, I saw what happened in America. It didn't make me think that everyone's got to use their vote. I just thought their election had been badly administered."

  • If you are too uninterested and stupid to remember who you voted for last time, you shouldn't be allowed to vote.
    Joanne: "That's a bit extreme. I can see what they're saying but we've all got a right to vote. I just don't think about politics as much as some people. That doesn't mean I'm stupid."

    Joanne's verdict: "Having gone through all that, I've decided that I will vote. There were some strong arguments that have made me think more than I would have otherwise. I will vote, but I don't know who for yet. I'll definitely pay more attention to the campaign; watch the news more."

    Watch out for another "Persuade Me to Vote" candidate soon.


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