There's a good chance your organization hires a professional election management agency. If so, these generally operate in-house election software, managing everything from nominations and security to engagement and vote tabulations. It's no surprise that elections can be challenging, especially given the sheer number of votes needed to be processed. It's one of the reasons why large member organizations outsource elections. Smaller groups, however, may prefer trimmed-down, do-it-yourself programs providing comparatively less services, yet just enough to help you get by.
These are important decisions that need to be made long before elections are scheduled. The only way to do so is by educating yourself on the services currently available on the market, and how they differ from the professionals.
Do It Yourself: Pros and Cons
In recent years, YouTube and other similar video-sharing sites have been flooded with DIY videos. That may be one of the reasons why people feel more confident tackling a problem in-house before grudgingly raising the white flag and hiring a professional.
Why they choose to go this route differs from organization to organization, but as with most things in life, the decision to go solo is driven largely by financial concerns.
If that’s the case, it’s understandable for some to eschew respected agencies in favor of an online survey platform. If you’re a small organization with a limited budget, this option may prove appealing, especially for groups with less than 100 members.
If you belong to a modestly-sized membership group, there’s a decent chance your elections are equally small, meaning the cast of candidates is lean. The ballots themselves may not be incredibly comprehensive, either.
Also, in an era in which the internet dominates our personal and professional lives, some organizations may be hesitant to provide membership information to an outside group. While full-scale election management agencies provide state-of-the-art security and are upfront about how they protect member data, smaller organizations may prefer not to share such information. On the other hand, survey companies moonlighting as election systems may not invest as much in security protocols as do established vendors.
- DIY can be cost-efficient, especially for groups with limited budgets
- Modestly sized organizations can manage election planning internally
- Members may already be familiar with online surveys
- Devoting resources and time to managing a successful election
- Limited ancillary services, such as security, social media engagement and professionally designed ballots
- Little time to devote to strategizing about voter engagement efforts
Online Voting Software: To Use of Not to Use?
Online software falls in between DIY and engaging an election management agency to run your contest. Voting software can either be purchased or free, depending on which company you choose. This option saves you a bit of time and money, but doesn’t run the entire election for your organization. It only manages the election—not the nominations process or social media integration.
The largest component missing from online voting software is guaranteed security. Typically, free and paid software requires an additional cost for data protection—if it’s offered at all.
It also still requires some effort on your part to input data and complete the tabulation process. Plus, you’ll have to distribute reminders and informational messages to explain how members can cast their ballots. If your organization has a smaller or moderate-size population, you can easily manage planning internally, input names and information into the software system, and disseminate voting directions and announcements.
If you’re interested in using an online voting software outside of an election management agency, you should consider time and cost trade-offs, features you’ll be missing out on, security and secrecy of the ballots, and if the process will be simple for your members. Online software can help you run the contest on the day of the election, but election management agencies can manage the entire process from nominations to tabulation.
Election Management Agencies & Software
Reputable election vendors literally do it all. For starters, they’ll speak with organizational leaders about everything that will help improve the process, from cost and security concerns to past experiences and election goals. It goes without saying that an organization is primarily concerned about ensuring election results are completely accurate. But election management companies do so much more than just count ballots, and that's why their services are in such high demand.
At the outset, a well-managed vendor can create and design ballots and distribute them accordingly. Of course, the latter depends on the method of voting you choose, which can range from online to mailed ballots to telephone, on-site or hybrid voting.
Some may take it a step further and help organizations develop strategies to increase voter turnout—another important goal for any member-based organization. They’ll also provide security and data protection to ensure member information isn’t released to a third party.
Reputable election vendors literally do it all.
One operational asset election management firms can point to is experience. Why’s that important? Well, depending on what type of organization you are, an election may be governed by certain regulations or bylaws that vary by state. Election experts often stay abreast of voting regulation changes, and are able to ensure these contests remain above board.
The type of software utilized can also be a game-changer. Aside from the aforementioned benefits, experts can track paper and online ballots, provide single-vote verification security, and analyze the results so they can develop a comprehensive plan for the next go around.
As the leader of an organization, it’s your duty to serve your hard-working members. At the end of the day, how you choose to manage your election is all up to you. While no one can make the decision for you, it’s important to pursue all available options. If you can’t arrive at an answer, it’s also helpful to contact an election management agency and discuss ways they can improve your elections and determine if the cost is appropriate for you and your members.
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.