Associations hold annual elections to decide key positions and matters that are important to members. While selecting a voting method is of utmost importance, it’s also crucial that associations provide members with a seamless election experience. Beyond upholding democratizing ideals, elections help instill trust in a voter’s institution and the greater community it serves.
Voting software that prioritizes election security and data privacy, clear messaging on ballots, and precise tabulation can go a long way in ensuring efficient, cost-effective elections.
Let’s review the benefits of association voting software and how such systems improve the overall election experience.
First, let’s briefly discuss what voting software is. Election management agencies typically refer to this as a “voting management system” and it includes nearly every aspect of elections, from nominations and ballots to voting and the tabulation of results.
Within these aforementioned categories are elements that are intended to improve the voting process. For example, voting software should simplify nominations by providing an interface where potential candidates can insert bios, images, and other useful information—all in one place.
The same goes for election security. State-of-the-art voting software creates an environment in which voter data is protected and ballots remain secret—meaning no one, including the association and the third-party election vendor, can determine how someone voted.
Voting Software For Associations
Internal elections are mandated by law, therefore it’s incumbent on each member-based association to identify the best tools available to operate these contests.
When deliberating about how to run an election, associations generally have two options: hiring a third-party vendor or conducting the event in-house. While one might think the latter is, in theory, the most cost-friendly option, consider the costs associated with providing the staff and time to fully manage an election in-house. Faulty results or an election that’s perceived to be unprofessional can be costly—both financially (in the event of a recount or a do-over) and in member enthusiasm.
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Enlisting the help of an election management agency is generally considered the best option, especially for large associations. These vendors can study your organization's all-important bylaws and regulations, while investing in their exclusive voting software to improve your election turnout and overall user experience.
Nominations and Ballots
Vendors who provide a nomination platform ensures those vying for seats on association boards have the opportunity to upload the required information about their candidacy while the association’s election administrators can review and approve the candidate’s forms.
Once candidates are vetted, the next step would be applying these forms to the ballot creation and delivery, which such software also manages. Depending on the vendor’s system, ballots may be customizable and can include the association’s messaging. As for distributing ballots to members, the voting method will dictate how this happens. For groups voting by mail, a vendor will have a process in place for the mass delivery and return of ballots. For those opting for online elections, the management agency will customize an online voting website, or even set up voting through the organization’s “members only” portal for members to cast their respective ballots electronically.
Speaking of voting, election vendors typically offer a variety of methods by which a member can pull the lever, so to speak. Some may also support multiple methods of voting.
For the most part, the most common options include voting by mail, on-site polling, online, telephone voting, and using hybrid variations.
Selecting a voting method early on is vital because it sets in motion a series of events that will determine how smoothly your election will run.
If you’re unsure about which to choose, consider the pros and cons of each.
Elections delivered by mail remain hugely popular despite the allure of online voting, which associations attribute to familiarity among members and its perceived security. Associations can also use the opportunity to distribute other materials to connect with voters, such as reminders about events, including industry conventions, and other relevant updates.
Online voting has become more ubiquitous over the last decade, coinciding with a boom in tech innovation and consumers becoming more comfortable using such tools.
Since digital elections don’t require ballots to be printed or mailed, there are cost savings to be had. And in this age of social media, online elections boast one unique attribute—the ability for members to share their voting experience with friends on various social networks, including Facebook. Members basking in the spirit of voting may be able to encourage others on the fence to participate.
The best thing about in-person voting is members have a rare opportunity to gather for a hugely important cause. Not only that, but associations can schedule elections to coincide with annual meetings—increasing the likelihood that attending members will vote.
Hybrid voting enables associations to offer multiple forms of voting for an election. For those who like the appeal of voting from wherever they are using a digital device, then online elections will more than suffice. Those who are accustomed to receiving a ballot in the mail and completing it their leisure would also have that option.
Secure Voting & Tabulation
At the end of the day, there’s perhaps nothing more important than hosting a fair and problem-free election. When members cast a ballot, you want them to have confidence that their vote will remain secret and it will be counted accurately.
Here are some features of a state of the art voting system:
Single-vote verification — Once a member casts a ballot, an election specialist will classify that person as having voted. Importantly, the vendor or association wouldn’t be able to determine how that person voted.
Secure nomination — Casting a ballot shouldn’t be the only function that’s protected. Establishing a secure site where members can nominate potential candidates is also crucial.
Real-time turnout — As each vote is cast and received by the agency, participation levels can be tracked in real-time and formatted by voting method. Tracking ballot participation in real-time means vendors can record every single vote as the contest is unfolding, giving groups an indication of live vote turnout levels.
Data protection — Assuming you’re using an election management agency to oversee your contest, make sure that the vendor adapts to your organization's policy on data privacy. A reputable agency shouldn’t distribute personal constituent information to third parties. Establish a data retention policy with your vendor for storing or purging your election data after the election is complete.
And this brings us to election results. The foundation of any successful association election is providing members with indisputable results. Some of the aforementioned features—real-time turnout, single-vote verification, and secure voting—improves the chances of having a successful election with accurate results. Once the election is over, the vendor can leverage this information and review the process from start to close, providing the association with recommendations to improve future elections.
For more than a decade, YesElections has managed elections throughout the United States. Our investment in state-of-the-art security makes us one of the most reliable election management agencies in the nation. To learn more about how YesElections can help your organization, request a free consultation, today.