Extra! Extra! Read all about it! Features! Functionality! Framework!


Fresh Features, Functionality, and Framework


Feature — Reporting Groups

ElectionBuddy has recently released a new feature called “Reporting Groups”! I think the reporting groups is the most exciting of our new releases since it has been a huge labour of love from our entire team. This is a big feature and we have considered and crafted every nook and cranny of it. Many administrators have been waiting for this and we are so excited for you to see it! The feature allows you to get a breakdown of the results of your election by various demographics within your voter population. Some examples of what you can use reporting groups for might be location, age, gender, etc. For example, if you are a national-level union, you could set up reporting groups to get results by State and Local.

Reporting Groups

For each election, you can include up to three reporting groups. The breakdown of these reporting groups appears in the “Grouped Results” report. With these grouped results you can get a better idea of how members vote in each subgroup.

For more information on our reporting groups, check out our help article!

Functionality — Location

We recently released some new functionality that allows you to select the location of your organization! Once your organization’s location is inputted, ElectionBuddy automatically selects the time zone that is related to your organization for your election. For example, if your organization is located in New York, NY, USA, ElectionBuddy will automatically select the Eastern time zone option.

Location

By automatically pulling the time zone for your location we hope to give you one less thing to worry about when setting up your election.

For more information on how to update or add your organization’s location, please check out our help article!

Functionality — Election Title

Election Title

This update is tiny but we hope it has a major impact on how you manage your election setup! As see above, we are now including the title of your election on every page of the setup process. For our administrators who work on numerous elections at the same time, this functionality will hopefully help you better manage your ballots since you can consistently see the title of your election while you work on it. This means you will not have to head back to the “Details” page to see what election you are currently working on.

Functionality — Help

Our “Help” functionality has a makeover! With the new functionality (thanks HelpScout!) our Customer Success team is provided with more nuanced information. For example, we can see if a lot of administrators are encountering the same issue on the same page. This means we can go in and make small changes that will hopefully have a big impact on your setup experience!

Help

In the future, we will make the setup process even smoother for you! “How?” you might ask? Currently the “Learn more” links open up in a new tab in your web browser but soon, we will be implementing a change that will open the help article in a sidebar alongside your election setup, meaning that you can get help right in ElectionBuddy when you need it most.

Functionality — Translations

Last summer, ElectionBuddy started offering French and Portuguese on the ballot as alternative language options for voters when voting. Now, we have added translations for Italian and Croatian to ElectionBuddy. These translations aim to help you give your voters a better experience no matter where they are located.

Here is a guide to running your election in a language other than English. We hope with our translations we make ElectionBuddy more accessible to voters everywhere.

ElectionBuddy has taken a collaborative approach to add language translations to the ballot by getting help from our community, so please feel free to reach out to us if you are interested in adding a language translation that we currently do not offer.

Framework — Ruby on Rails 6.0

In order to keep ElectionBuddy in tip-top shape for our administrators, we also need to make some changes to our infrastructure. Recently our development team has upgraded our Ruby on Rails 5.2 to Ruby on Rails 6.0!

By updating to the newer version we benefit from performance improvements as well as any new features Ruby might have released. This means our developers can keep effectively working on cool things for you, our administrators!

If you speak Ruby, you can check out the release notes for Ruby 6.0 here.

Soon…

On top of the above changes, we are currently working on making the onsite meeting voting experience for administrators and voters. You may have already noticed the start of the changes we are making on the “Details” page with the new “Remote or Onsite Voting” setting. We will be sure to update you on our onsite voting functionality once it has been released!

It’s been a busy time here at ElectionBuddy and all these changes couldn’t happen if it weren’t for YOU, our customers! Please feel free to email us with any suggestions or questions you might have. You can contact us at support@electionbuddy.com!

ElectionBuddy’s primary focus is elections. However, we know that the ability to survey members is also important. So, we created a hybrid: a voting method that can serve both as a true voting method for elections, and as a tool for surveying. Say hello to Scored voting!

Scored Voting as a Tool to Survey

Endless Possibilities

The thing that excites us the most about this new voting method is the surveying ability. Because the Scored voting method is also usable for voting, your survey can be different than something you would create on a tool like SurveyMonkey. Don’t get us wrong — SurveyMonkey is a great surveying software! However, with ElectionBuddy, you get some benefits that a typical surveying software wouldn’t be able to provide.

Because we are an election software, your surveys can be:

Sample ElectionBuddy Survey Ballot
Sample ElectionBuddy Survey Ballot

However, you can also run surveys with this voting method in a more relaxed manner. If you went with a Low-integrity setting, your survey can function much like one that a program like SurveyMonkey would offer. With this setting, you create a link that anyone with access to the link can use to vote. You could post the link up on your organization’s website, and ask your members to participate in the survey at their leisure, without them needing voting credentials or other items. The flexibility of ElectionBuddy opens up a wide range of options for you! 

Sample Ballot

Sample Survey Details
Sample Survey Details

Take a look at the sample ballot below. This example looks at how an HOA might want to spend excess budget dollars!

As you can see, the voters have the option to leave a comment. They can use this to suggest other ideas. You can even give them details and ideas for each option on the ballot:

Give it a Whirl!

So, the next time you need to run a survey, you can do so with a software you already know and love! Put our new survey functionality to the test, and let us know what you think! 

Single Transferable Vote: What’s That?

Single transferable vote, or STV for short, is the voting method used when one wants to run a preferential vote on a given position, but has multiple vacancies for that position; for a regular preferential ballot, there is only one vacancy. As far as the overall feel of casting an STV-based ballot is concerned, from the eye of a voter, there is no difference between an STV and a regular preferential ballot. It is only when we get to the tallying portion that the magic starts to happen.

The name says it all: this voting method involves transferring votes. But, how? What does this mean? 

Results are calculated through the process of redistributing votes in rounds, based on the voters’ indicated preference for a candidate. Low-ranked candidates are eliminated. Transferring votes from those eliminated candidates helps get other candidates across the line. Additionally, candidates that have surpassed the quota and therefore have already secured a spot also have their surplus votes redistributed. 

ElectionBuddy specifically uses Meek’s STV, which is a modified version of conventional STV. We will address Meek’s STV below!

The Single Transferable Vote Quota: Droop Quota

STV quota formula
STV formula

There are a few different ways to calculate a quota; ElectionBuddy uses a Droop quota. Calculating a Droop quota involves some simple mathematics. First, the total number of submitted votes in an election is divided by the number of available vacancies for the position, plus one. Then, 1×10^-9 is added to the quotient, and the result is truncated to nine decimal places. For example, if we have 115 votes cast in an election where the position up for election has three vacancies, we would calculate the quota using the formula on the left.

Single Transferable Vote: Round #1

The first round is very straightforward: the first preference on each ballot is a vote for that particular candidate. The votes are tallied. Any candidate(s) who have at least the minimum number of votes required, as dictated by the quota, win. So, in our above example, a candidate would need to obtain, at minimum, 28.750000001 votes to win.

Now, we need to decide how to transfer votes. Surplus votes are the first choice to be transferred; but, if no candidates surpassed the quota, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. Their votes get transferred to other candidates. When two candidates are tied for last place, a candidate is randomly selected for elimination.

Subsequent Single Transferable Vote Rounds: To Transfer, or To Eliminate?

No matter whether the votes are coming from an eliminated candidate, or from surplus votes from a candidate above quota, the transferring process is the same: transfer the votes to the next highest-ranked candidate, as indicated by the voter.  However, there is a big difference between transferring surplus votes, and transferring votes from an eliminated candidate!

Logically, when a candidate is eliminated, all of their votes need to be redistributed. But, when a candidate has surplus votes, only some of their votes are redistributed, because they still need to have votes in order to be elected!  So, depending on which votes are considered “surplus”, the outcome for other candidates can change: if two voters indicated a candidate who has surpassed quota for first place, but their second-choice rankings are different, the outcome for the next candidate could be affected depending on which of the two voters’ ballots are considered “surplus”. To solve this problem, we transfer votes in fractions, which keeps the vote distribution fair and unbiased for all candidates. 

With regards to our previous example: imagine a candidate received 41 votes. That candidate has just over twelve surplus votes to be distributed (41-28.750000001=12.249999999). The surplus votes get transferred at 12.249999999/41, or 0.298780488, of their value.  So, when transferred at such a small amount of their total value, the re-distribution of votes results in 12.249999999 total votes being transferred.

The rounds of transferring surplus votes/eliminating candidates and transferring their votes continue until you are left with enough winners to fill the position. 

Exhausted Votes and the Dynamic Nature of the Single Transferable Vote Quota

The quota changes when a vote is “exhausted”. A vote becomes exhausted when a voter has no next most-preferred candidate to transfer votes to. When there is no next most-preferred candidate for a voter, then once their ranked candidates are eliminated, the voter’s vote is eliminated with the last eliminated candidate. This affects the quota because it impacts the numerator of the quota formula — the total number of votes cast decreases.

Meek’s Single Transferable Vote Method

Conventionally, once a candidate has reached quota, that’s it – they have won a seat, and so they are excluded from any subsequent rounds of vote transferring (unless the quota changes). Meek’s STV, as previously mentioned, is a modified version of conventional STV. The candidates who have hit quota continue to be apart of the receiving and transferring of votes. Each candidate is assigned a keep factor that identifies the percentage of votes that they get to keep per round. So, any candidate under quota has a keep factor of 1, because they will keep the entire portion of their votes to attempt to reach quota. Candidates above the quota will have a keep factor of less than one. This is because their votes will always have a portion transferred away to keep them at quota.

The Benefit of Meek’s Single Transferable Vote Method

The main benefit of Meek’s STV is that it is beautifully democratic, especially when compared to other STV methods. Because the candidates are always getting votes, even if they’ve reached or surpassed quota, the voter’s votes are always going to their intended candidates. This is why we use it in our STV calculations. 

Constantly adjusting and cycling votes around sounds complicated, and if you don’t like math, it is definitely a little complex. Take a look at this guide to evaluate the difficulty for yourself!
BUT, WHEN YOU HAVE ELECTIONBUDDY TO DO THE MATH FOR YOU, IT’S A LOT EASIER! SIGN UP FOR A FREE ACCOUNT AND TRY OUT ELECTIONBUDDY’S SINGLE TRANSFERABLE VOTE TO SEE JUST HOW EASY STV CAN BE!

As ElectionBuddy users know, we take feedback very seriously because those suggestions have been the driving force that has helped shape ElectionBuddy to become one of the most popular online voting / online election platforms today. We need only to look as far as the popular “Candidate Photo” feature to see how user feedback has made it into the application.

Back in August we asked users what they thought of the new feature, “Shuffle Candidate Order” that we were developing at the time. Sure enough we received tons of great insights that expanded on our original concept.

With Randomized Ballots, once this new feature has been enabled in your online election, each voter will be presented with a ballot that randomizes (shuffles) the order of not only candidates but also of questions. This removes the Ballot Order Effect on voting results: where the first candidate or question is more likely to be selected then the middle – or lower-ordered items.

Best of all, this new feature is FREE with all ElectionBuddy accounts!

In 1960, Vice President Richard Nixon went head to head against Senator John F. Kennedy for the Presidency of the United States. At a critical junction, Nixon was challenged by Kennedy to a televised debate. “Why do you suppose Kennedy wants to debate me on television?” asked Nixon of his advertising agency. When Nixon pressed for an answer, one of the agency executives answered: “Sir, women are going to decide this election, and Kennedy is good-looking. You’re not.”

Here at ElectionBuddy one of the most requested features from election organizers has been to allow organizers to upload a photo of the candidate to appear alongside the candidate’s description. We’ve included this feature and we hope that it will help to jog the memory of the voter so to re-confirm that they know exactly who they are voting for. But remember if you do decide to use this feature, as with the Nixon / Kennedy story, all is fair in love and politics.

To learn how to use this feature, please see our FAQ entry – Candidate Profiles and Photos

The ElectionBuddy team has been hard at work creating some great new features for our ever-growing list of organizations running elections through ElectionBuddy. One of these nifty new features is the CANDIDATE PHOTO upload feature. For all of you visual decision makers out there, the candidate photo feature should make your voting experience much more easy and personal!

Election administrators can upload any JPEG image 5MB or smaller, including a photo of the candidate themselves, a company logo, or any other visual aid to compliment the text entered into the candidate profile. The feature also automatically crops the image into a nice looking square which sits beside the candidate profile text.

The candidate photo feature is sure to make professional looking election profile creation a breeze – try it out in your next election and let us know what you think!

Seeing as it’s almost the holiday season, we wanted to surprise all of you with a special gift – a new feature that will surely add an interesting dynamic to your elections!

Multiple Votes per Ballot

Multiple votes per ballot (aka Weighted Voting) is a way of allowing one person to have more influence on an election than another voter. We wanted to implement this feature as a way of tackling the condominium board community and homeowners associations. It is also extremely useful for proxy voting at board elections. We have gotten a lot of requests for this feature, so I’m pleased that we able to introduce it to everyone! In the past ElectionBuddy operated on a “One person, one vote” tallying system. With this new feature, organizations can assign multiple votes to a ballot, when elections are set in the First Past The Post, and Referendum method.

Who uses Weighted Voting

While weighted voting can be used for a variety of applications, it is prominently seen in elections done by homeowners associations and condominium boards – where multiple votes can be assigned to a ballot. For more information on how condominium boards across Canada operate their elections, I invite you to read our Condominium Board Blog Series. We have also looked at US Homeowners Associations and Condominium Boards to see how ElectionBuddy might be beneficial to them. For example, in a Condominium Board Election, John owns 5 units in a building totaling 18,000 sq. ft. and Amanda only owns 1 unit for 2000 sq. ft. The way votes are completed for this board is such that John would receive 18 votes and Amanda would receive 2 votes, on their respective ballots.  You will notice that most condominium bylaws state that number of votes someone receives is set by how many square feet they own.

How to Use it in ElectionBuddy

We realize most elections operate on “a one person, one vote” tallying system, and didn’t want to impact those who use it that way in the slightest. ElectionBuddy users love the simplicity of the software, so we wanted to keep it out of the hair of users who won’t be using it. Here’s how to use it:

To set up weighted voting:

We’d love to hear what you think about this new feature. We are all extremely excited about it and hope you are too! Reach out to us at support@electionbuddy.com.

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