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The BBC's Ian Pannell
investigates voter apathy
 real 28k

Thursday, 17 May, 2001, 17:31 GMT
Persuade me to vote II
Persuade me to vote
A general election is the most important event in any democracy. But come polling day, 7 June, millions of potential voters are expected to stay away from the ballot box. Can you help change their minds?

In the run-up to the election, we are asking you to persuade avowed non-voters to change their minds by e-mailing us with your reasons.

Earlier this week, you convinced Joanne Smith to go to the ballot box [see Internet links, right]. Now hundreds of users have e-mailed in in an attempt to get our second candidate, Albert Atkin, to vote.

On Friday, Albert will give his reaction. Read below to find out Albert's current position and some examples of why you think he should vote.

Why I won't be voting, by Albert Atkin:
"I voted Labour in both the 1992 and 1997 elections. In 1992 because they really were Labour and I agreed with some of their policies; and in 1997 because I was frightened that some quirk of voter apathy would see the Conservatives returned again.

I wouldn't want any of the current parties thinking that they speak for me

"I genuinely feel that no one involved in mainstream politics represents my feelings on any key subject. The result is that I feel politically neutered and disenfranchised.

"What's worse is that I'm not a political extremist by any measure, which just goes to show how limited the range of views represented by the parties are.

"How can I exercise my democratic right to vote when there is no real choice about who to vote for? As such, I think it's best not to vote at all and instead be part of that statistic that suggests the political alienation that I know I feel.

"I wouldn't want any of the current parties thinking that they speak for me or the majority of fair-minded people I know."

A selection of your comments:

Politics is the art of the possible, not the art of the philosophical. Typical of a philosopher to sit on his hands whinging about ideas and principles while the world goes to pot around him. Join in the debate and make hard practical choices, rather than just wimping out.
Andrew, Thetford, Norfolk

Q: "Do you want a Pepsi or a Coke?" A: "Neither. They're far too similar, so I'll go thirsty instead. That'll show 'em." Yeah, right.
Graham Hughes, Liverpool

You say that "How can I exercise my democratic right to vote when there is no real choice about who to vote for?" I would reply, How can you not afford to exercise your democratic right?
Harry Hayfield, Aberystwyth, Ceredigion

Under a system of proportional representation your views would be considered and your vote would matter, assuming even non-mainstream parties reflect your beliefs. The Lib Dems have the strongest commitment to the PR system and any vote for them will increase their leverage in the debate. On the other hand Labour is better placed to deliver it.
Matt R, Oxford

If you really don't like any of the candidates, you can still exercise your democratic right by spoiling your ballot paper. Then you would be more likely to be counted as 'dissatisfied' rather than 'lazy'
Matthew Flint, York, UK

Elections are not about voting for who you'd like to be running the country. But voting against who you definitely don't want to be running the country. Also known as tactical voting.
Simon Mosley, London UK

Dear Albert, I share your disillusionment but 'twas ever thus. Parties evolved because it was necessary to group a bunch of ideas under one banner, otherwise chaos reigns. Remember that a vote for a particular party is not an unqualified endorsement of everything they stand for (even politicians don't believe that), it is merely a statement of preference.
Dominic Elson, Bristol, UK

Get real! The party which wins power is going to speak for you and the rest of us whether we like it or not - so at least take part and pick the least irksome. Otherwise you have no tenable position if a future government fouls up.
Marcus Oliver, London, UK

Pick one subject with which you feel strongly and vote for the party who gives you the closest match to what you want. You may not agree with all the policies but at least you'll be happy on one point and your vote isn't wasted.
Cy, Manchester, UK

If Albert is convinced that none of the parties adequately represent his views, then a deliberately spoilt paper (e.g write 'none of these') on the ballot paper is a far more positive protest. Otherwise, how can anyone distinguish between apathy and a deliberate intention not to support any of the candidates or parties
Steve Dane, Ashby de la Zouch, UK


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