Tips and tricks for elections

The Internet is a wonderful thing isn’t it? You can shop, socialize, book flights and vacations, bank, and conduct business – all from the comfort of your couch (and more often than not, from your Email’s Inbox). And in recent years, the number of elections and polls held online have risen. Heck, even Canada’s federal government is hoping to test online elections by 2013. Facebook’s new Questions feature has even taken off with tons of success in recent weeks, prompting companies and organizations to conduct surveys for their products and services. But what are the benefits of conducting online polling and elections internally?

Let’s use the example of a school election. Imagine if you were a school’s Vice Principal, or the head of the student activities committee and have to undertake the daunting task of figuring how to elect a new student president. To make matters worse, your school recently added an extra 300+ students at the beginning of the year. How are you going to go about organizing a fair and accurate election that will get the highest turnout rate from the 1,500 potential voters?

Well, you’re probably going to search for method that’s cost-effective, simple to manage, secure, and accessible.

Are paper ballots the way to go?

There is definitely familiarity with paper ballots. It’s easy for the public to digest, and there’s a tangible, physical ‘check’ besides the candidate. But this method can become costly and time-consuming. You have to do research on what day of the week would be best, to ensure maximum turnout – or mail out the ballots (which is a whole new set of time-consuming difficulties). You must find impartial counters and/or moderators. Should you go the route of using an election vendor,  they can charge a pretty penny or more likely, pretty dollars, per vote. In other words, it’s going to take lots of organization and planning.

And paper ballots require work on the voter’s part. Work that the voter might consider an inconvenience (it takes time to fill out the ballot and find a mailbox, or to visit the polling station).  Or voters can completely forget about voting too!  Both of which decrease your voter turnout!

Setting up online elections.

The Internet is increasingly becoming the ‘go-to’ place for running elections, and for good reason.

Online elections are cost-effective and simple to manage and maintain. Here are just a few benefits they provide:

  1. Flexible setup: You are easily able to to pick a style of election. Whether that be a preferential ballot, approval voting, and add things such as proxy voting. And, you can easily upload contact lists of email addresses directly from excel or your mail client.
  2. Convenient for the voter: A good piece of election software will send out the vote link via email in a spam-proof and secure manner. This is very hassle-free method for the voter.
  3. Upload biographies of candidates: You can delegate the exact same number of characters per candidate description, giving the voter a balanced look at each party, and them last-minute research on the candidate.
  4. Reduce voter fraud: Companies that create software for online elections thrive on security. If they’re using 256-bit encryption, then you’re in good hands.
  5. Provides instantaneous results: Since you can manage your election online, and see when votes are cast, you can determine a winner within seconds of closing the poll.

If you’re a little hesitant of making the switch to holding an election online, then some systems offer the possibility of conducting an online election with also using paper ballots. These printed ballots are still a lot easier to be calculated, because all of the information collected on the ballot is uniformed and easily readable.

This post wouldn’t be complete without a little plug, and that plug is for ElectionBuddy – the product I manage, here at RightLabs. Luckily, all of the benefits I listed for using online elections, are available through ElectionBuddy – even the option of paper ballots!. If you’re a former or current user, then what were your thoughts on using ElectionBuddy for online elections? Share this article on your favorite social network. We’d love to hear your feedback! If you’ve never heard of it, and stumbled upon this article elsewhere, then give it a try. It’s completely free for elections up to 20 voters – perfect for executive meetings!