The United States is home to more than 14 million union members, including many that take great pride in their membership and the associated union benefits.
That’s why it’s crucial to ensure that union elections are secure, optimized to increase voter turnout, and inspires confidence among your dedicated membership. Of course, it’s also important that union elections are compliant with all regulations, including the Labor-Management Reporting and Disclosure Act (LMRDA).
One of the most effective ways to ensure security, compliance and widespread participation is through online voting. A full-service election management agency not only provides robust security for internet elections but prioritizes ballot secrecy so no one—not even the election vendor itself—can access a particular person’s ballot.
For some, online voting may seem like the way of the future—an aspirational goal to reach once the digital infrastructure matures. However, the reality is that internet voting is the preferred election method for thousands of organizations, including unions big and small. That’s because the online system is seen as the most cost-efficient, secure, and streamlined way of managing member-based elections.
Let’s examine the benefits of online voting for your union election, and what makes these contests unique.
LMRDA, Online Voting & Union Elections
First, it’s important to understand the LMRDA and how it comes into play when we’re talking about online elections.
As we noted in this comprehensive guide for unions, the LMRDA requires that all election ballots are “secret.”
This is how the Department of Labor, which enforces the LMRDA, defines a secret ballot: “the expression by ballot, voting machine, or otherwise, but in no event by proxy, of a choice with respect to any election or vote taken upon any matter, which is cast in such a manner that the person expressing such choice cannot be identified with the choice expressed.”
While the 1959 act is a bit ambiguous in its language, it does not preclude a union from utilizing online voting—or any other form of voting, for that matter—so long as secrecy is maintained and that the electronic voting system meets LMRDA standards.
In response to online voting’s increased popularity, the Department of Labor in October 2016 issued guidance to help unions navigate the sometimes choppy regulatory waters. In seeking to educate unions, the Labor Department noted that “[t]he LMRDA does not require a particular method or system of voting. Labor organizations may establish their own methods or systems of voting for officer elections as long as they are consistent with the LMRDA.”
The guidance continues: “Ballot secrecy requires that no person, including an independent third party, have access to information allowing such person to learn how a particular member cast his or her vote at any time. Moreover, a member’s vote must remain secret after the ballot is cast.”
If you’re considering transitioning to online voting for your next union election, it’s crucial that you do your due diligence to ensure all regulatory standards are being met by your third-party election management agency.
Choosing the Right Online Voting System
As we just documented, it’s important to find an election vendor that takes all its responsibilities seriously, especially regulatory matters.
When doing your research, find an election management agency that guarantees complete ballot secrecy. Any online voting apparatus should be part of a larger election ecosystem called a voting management system, which your election provider uses to manage your contest.
The voting management system should be able to accommodate online nomination services and voting. At the same time, it should have strong security and rules prohibiting the dissemination of member information to third-party organizations.
Some election vendors go a step further and utilize single-vote verification and ballot tracking as part of their security protocols. And it should be noted that with ballot tracking, the election vendor can tell if an online ballot was completed and submitted—but can’t access the content of the ballot. This type of tracking allows you to have a better understanding of how many members are voting so you can work toward improving turnout.
Aside from the hugely important matter of ballot security, it’s also imperative that you ask a prospective vendor about their policies on data protection. A reputable firm should not be in the business of selling your members’ data to third-party groups or even harvesting that information for their own purposes.
Benefits of Online Voting for your Union Election
The good news is that if your prospective vendor checks all those boxes, you should be in good hands as far as your election is concerned.
In most cases, online voting allows eligible voters to cast a ballot from their preferred device, wherever they are. So, in theory, a member who is on vacation, at a restaurant or relaxing in their living room can vote via a secure link provided by the election vendor.
And it’s also crucial to meet people where they are—and these days, people are spending a great deal of their time online. According to a Pew Research Center poll released in March, 85 percent of Americans are online on a daily basis, including 31 percent who are online “constantly.”
If you’re looking to boost turnout, social media integration is also key. Since online voting is inherently more user-friendly, you should notice a higher percentage of turnout. But to bring more members into the fold, you can leverage the enthusiasm of those who already completed their ballot by inviting them to share the news that they’ve voted on social media. This could serve multiple purposes: influencing someone who was on the fence to actually vote or reminding someone that the election is taking place.
Along with the added convenience of voting remotely, reduced costs since you’re no longer printing hundreds—if not thousands—of paper ballots, and peace of mind knowing your election vendor is educated on all the relevant regulations, online voting is one of the most attractive election methods available.
With state-of-the-art security protocols and a variety of features to boost your voter turnout, YesElections has years of experience and expertise conducting elections for private organizations. To get your contest started, request a complimentary consultation today.