Nick Salter urges members not to be apathetic about voting for their choice of Council members
I was reading an article the other day on how voter apathy has been a growing issue in the UK elections in recent years and how, years ago, one grandmother in a small village in Wales had a sure-fire method for battling it. She made sure that everyone in her village voted by setting herself up at a strategic location and ticking everyone's name off as they walked by, exhorting them to vote.
Those she didn't catch were called on at their home by her daughter, and summoned to get over to the polling station forthwith. It was successful it seems, as no one wanted to suffer the repercussions from an angry Welsh gran.
I think it's important that we all exercise our democratic right, and so in the UK, with the general election upon us next month, the issue of voter apathy is one I'd hope to see addressed - although possibly not by grandmas sitting in the street ticking names off a list.
In recent times, voter apathy has been plaguing elections, not just in the UK but in many countries around the world. Polls suggest that negative campaigning can be a particular contributor. Opposing political parties create adverts attacking their opponent's character or policies and this, in turn, results in a large part of the electorate becoming alienated by the whole process and not voting at all.
In the US, negative campaigning by use of attack adverts has been blamed for disenchanting voters over the years, and turnout there is now down to 55% of the voting age population.
Although such tactics haven't historically been used in the UK, voter turnout has been declining here too in recent years. Figures had fallen from a high of 84% in 1945 down to 59% in 2001, although, encouragingly, the last two general elections have seen turnout climb back up to 65%. Interestingly, the Scottish independence referendum last year saw an election turnout of 85% - something our 1945-era voters would have been proud of.
I'm sure I'm 'teaching granny to suck eggs' (my columns seem to be populated with grandmas, and this phrase is one my own used) by stating the obvious; low voter turnout can potentially allow a small portion of the population to have an undue influence over the policies and direction of the whole country, rather than representing the wishes of the entire population as was originally intended. The chosen voting system can have that effect too, regardless of how many people vote, but that's another story.
We also have elections at the IFoA and I'm keen that, as a profession, we don't suffer from our own version of voter apathy. The good news is that we don't have the problem of negative campaigning. However, the numbers don't look so good. Last year, we had an election turnout for the choice of Council members of just over 13%, a drop of 5% from the previous year.
I understand that as we all become increasingly busy in our day jobs, it can be difficult to make time to ensure the professional body we qualified with and, I hope, are proud of, remains reflective of its members and is a true representation of their wishes. It is something we need to do for that to happen.
I'm asking everyone to exercise their right and make sure their voice is heard. Soon you will be asked to vote for the candidates you would like to represent you on Council in the coming term, if we find there are more candidates than vacancies. I would encourage everyone to please consider the information about each candidate carefully and use this facility to vote.
Fellow members who have been nominated to run for Council have generously offered to give up their free time for a number of years to volunteer for the IFoA and shape our vision, policy direction, strategic objectives and ensure good governance.
I would ask all Fellows and Associates to consider if this is something they could volunteer for at some point in the future, if they haven't already. The healthiest membership body is one where all members have the opportunity to represent it and contribute to its future direction.
Speaking of volunteers, I'd also like to take this opportunity to thank all the IFoA volunteers who are continually working to improve actuarial science, whether it is on the Council, on one of our Boards, or on our working parties, in our regional societies, or in any other capacity. The IFoA couldn't exist without the hard work that all our volunteers put in and their time is very much appreciated. And, so far as I am aware, they didn't even need to be threatened by a grandma with a clipboard!