Why Paper Ballots are Still Necessary

Published 02/07/2020 by YesElections

Technology has evolved at such a rate over the last decade that it’s difficult to imagine reverting back to old practices. 

So why are paper ballots still used in elections?


Easy to Use

Because paper ballots are one of the oldest voting methods in the world, it’s safe to assume most voters are familiar with using them. In most cases, all ballots are identical, leaving little room for confusion or error. Voting can be as simple as writing a check mark or filling in a bubble. They don’t require passwords, authentication codes, or PIN numbers like online and phone voting, so there shouldn’t be a need for overly detailed instructions. 



For member-based organizations, ballots can be tailored to the association’s needs including as many categories and candidate names as necessary. The ballots can also showcase an organization’s unique branding and messaging. Ballot customization can also include a specific design and any additional elements, such as announcements or expressions of gratitude to members. An experienced election management vendor can also provide these elements with online voting. 


Utilization of Multiple Voting Methods

Paper ballots can be used in a variety of ways, including on-site voting with either a manual count  or automated scanning, and can even include the option to mail ballots to eligible voters. For hybrid elections with paper and online voting, mailed paper ballots can also include clear instructions for how to cast a vote online, or even by telephone. Historically, paper is a great way to get the message out to your members and include all the different avenues to cast a ballot. 


Safeguards From Duplicate Votes

For associations that have election security concerns, make sure your management vendor utilizes a system that does not allow for duplicate votes to be counted. Regardless of method the voter chooses, only the first vote received should be counted as valid, locked, and no further votes can be accepted from that member. This goes for elections that have a paper only process, as well as hybrid elections. 


Paper Trail

If a recount is called for, it’s important to have paper ballots for quick and easy recount. In the event of an equipment failure, organizations can turn to their paper trail and votes can be counted transparently in front of other members. For online elections, some vendors do not provide a process for audits and recounts. An experienced vendor would have a process for this. 


While paper ballots have many benefits, there are still arguments against them:



Printing is the main cost of paper ballots for on-site and mail voting elections alike. For mail voting, the cost of stamps and envelopes is added to the printing price. Paper ballots are considered more expensive than online or phone voting, both of which can be completed at the price of hiring an election management company. 

For associations looking to cut costs, but maintain a paper approach, multiple methods may be the answer. Hybrid and composite elections use both paper and online voting to reach as many members as possible. 


Susceptible to Tampering

Paper voting can be susceptible to tampering by an organization member, although it's important to note that such incidents are exceedingly rare. That being said, it’s crucial to use a disinterested third-party election management service that can properly verify results and identify any irregularities.  


Require a Tabulation System

Counting votes requires a reliable system of tabulation. This can be done with the help of voting hardware and software, or manually, which can be a laborious and lengthy task. 


Less Accessible

Voting by paper can be done on-site at a polling location, or by mail at the address on file, while online and phone voting can be done anywhere at any time.


YesElections provides paper, online, phone, and hybrid methods of voting. If your  organization feels safest using traditional paper ballots, we have the experience in providing the process and protection to ensure all approaches are streamlined and secure. Contact us to find out which method is right for your organization.


Topics: Voting Management Systems, multiple methods of voting

Leave a comment

Subscribe For
Blog Updates

Learn more about the election process with our Ebook:

The Ultimate Guide To Planning & Organizing Elections

Download Ebook

Learn more about increasing voter turnout with our Ebook:

A Guide To Membership Engagement

Download Ebook

Help organize and manage your association's contest with our checklist:

The Ultimate Election Checklist

Download Checklist