Online Voting, Explained
- April 17, 2023
- Latest News, Governance, Insight, Featured, Membership
The Covid-19 pandemic accelerated digitization across many sectors, inspiring many to wonder: why didn’t we do things in this way before? This is indeed the case for electronic voting. Many clubs implemented electronic voting, albeit by necessity, to navigate complex challenges brought on by the pandemic. However, electronic voting is still relatively immature within the club industry. If you are curious about electronic voting, we answer five common questions that help to paint a clearer picture of electronic voting.
Why do online voting?
With the option of electronic voting, participation rates traditionally increase. Instead of needing to attend a meeting and fill out a paper ballot, members can access the ballot at home on their computer or at work on their phone. Voting can be completed in minutes and members receive a virtual confirmation assuring them that their vote was tallied. Higher voter turnout means higher levels of engagement among your members, and a simpler democratic process.
If planned properly, online voting can also be much more cost-effective. Your club can save on printing and mailing costs that would not be required through an online platform. It can also allow your club to allocate time and human resources to other areas of club operations.
By moving ballots online, elections are transitioned to a safe and secure platform, used routinely by private organizations and corporations. Online voting allows an ongoing audit trail that virtually eliminates the potential for human error which would not exist with paper ballots.
Online voting is customizable and implementing changes to your election is simple. The online voting system can be set up according to specifications provided by your club. This includes branding the voting website, ballot loading, preparation and loading the list of voters, and managing authentication of voters. When it comes time to vote, a mass email is distributed to all electors with a direct link with unique authentication credentials encrypted into it, making it easy for the member and safe for the club. Once the vote has been completed and the results are analyzed, online voting provides clubs with faster and more accurate tabulation of results, saving the club time and resources. The online platform also allows for further demographic segmentation while maintaining voter anonymity.
Do our bylaws align with online voting?
When first adopting an online vote, many clubs notice that their bylaws make it complicated to shift their voting to an electronic platform. Most clubs’ bylaws were written before the introduction of online voting, and therefore, may not adequately account for it. Just because a club’s bylaws or state statutes do not restrict a club from conducting a vote online, it does not mean their bylaws are optimal for doing online voting. Although many clubs are technically permitted to conduct online voting, their bylaws may prohibit them from doing so in an efficient and logical manner.
Typical barriers and bylaws that may interfere with a smooth online voting process may include:
- Proxy requirements and the format of the proxies, i.e., general proxies vs. directed proxies.
- Critical timing requirements and limitations on when proxies can be collected and when voting must occur.
- Explicit requirements to issue paper notices, ballots, or proxies.
- Specification of who is authorized to administer, issue, or receive proxies and ballots.
So, what is a club to do?
A change to your bylaws may be required. To successfully implement online voting, advisors can help clubs identify the required changes to their bylaws that are more compatible with online voting.
Who will be responsible for planning the vote?
Elections vendors offer support and guidance on the logistics and technical aspects of how the voting will occur. Votes require strong leaders/leadership team to plan and coordinate various aspects of the vote, such as communicating with members, producing meeting notices and information circular packages that are cohesive with the online voting process. Involving the club’s legal counsel is always advisable to ensure compliance with bylaws, state statues, and any other important requirements.
How should members be prepared for online voting?
It is recommended to initially implement online voting for a ‘low risk’ vote, such as an AGM vote where there are no polarizing motions or elections tabled. Although hybrid votes can be more complex, when they are set up appropriately, they can be a good first step for members to become familiar with the process. For example, in a simple vote with no proxies, members could be mailed a paper ballot or be given the option to vote online. The outcome of how many people elect to vote online vs. by paper can provide you with a good gauge on what your members are comfortable with. You can also observe turnout from other online engagement efforts, such as member surveys.
What vendor or service should I use for online voting?
There are many vendors, each of which excel at different aspects. Important factors to consider when selecting a vendor may include:
- Structure: whether the vote will be a hybrid vote or exclusively online.
- Vote requirements: will the voting experience need to be integrated with the technology being used to run the meeting via video?
Ready to implement electronic voting for your next vote?
If you would like to learn more about how electronic voting can help you run successful votes, please get in touch.