The past year has taught us all quite a bit about navigating a public health crisis. But for voting associations, the COVID-19 pandemic has underscored the need for a flexible voting management system that you can rely on even in the most difficult of circumstances.
For many associations, the pandemic likely forced you to transition to online voting—considered the most cost-effective and efficient option—quicker than you anticipated. For some, a pandemic election may have required members to complete and return ballots safely to secure drop boxes.
Whatever the case, it’s important that your voting management system delivers a secure and seamless experience, from the nomination period all the way to tabulating results.
Let’s break down why it’s important to have a reliable voting management system, especially during trying times such as these.
What is a voting management system?
Let’s start here. A voting management system handles all aspects of your election. It’s the system that an election management agency uses to run everything from nominations to ballot design and the actual voting process.
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Think of it as an all-in-one tool that the vendor utilizes to complete various tasks along the way, including verifying and tabulating ballots.
- Candidate nominations
- Ballot creation
- Ballot distribution
- Managing the voting process
- Virtual Meeting services
- Security and real-time ballot tracking
- Data protection
- Tabulating results
Of course, no election management agency is the same, so you’ll have to do your due diligence when researching vendors to see if their voting management system delivers the type of service you need. You’ll also want to inquire about whether they offer multiple voting methods—a pre-pandemic luxury that vaulted to the top of the priority list for many organizations after COVID-19 hit.
How voting management systems support multiple methods of voting
One attribute of an optimized voting management system is the ability to offer various voting methods. The reason is simple: Associations were forced to transition away from in-person elections to remote contests due to bans on large gatherings or simply to protect members’ health.
A fully functional voting management system should be able to offer mail balloting, online voting, on-site elections and voting by phone. More sophisticated systems utilize hybrid voting, which means organizations can choose more than one method for their election. While the pandemic proved to be an obstacle for on-site elections, the emergence of government-approved COVID-19 vaccines may enable organizations to return to normalcy in the coming months.
Even in a world in which on-site elections become a preferred choice yet again, recent history suggests online voting will continue to increase in popularity. That’s because voting over the internet is considered the most convenient, cost-effective and efficient way of managing an election.
It’s also important to consider how much of our time is spent navigating the digital world. While the pandemic accelerated the pivot to remote work, the majority of workers surveyed last fall said they’d prefer to work from home after the COVID-19 pandemic ends. Perhaps reading the tea leaves themselves, some of the largest firms in the world are embracing full-time remote work, which suggests that this pandemic-era trend may become a permanent fixture.
This is all to say that your members are likely spending more time online and will be comfortable voting online so long as your election vendor offers a secure way of doing so.
What to look for in a voting management system?
An ideal voting management system would boast many of the features we’ve already outlined.
One thing you don’t want to overlook is the nomination process because this sets the tone for your entire election. A common theme across different groups is a need for nominees to collect signatures safely, without going “door to door” and passing around forms to meet a signature collection threshold to become a candidate. A robust system should be able to function as a one-stop-shop for the nomination period, providing an electronic petition signature collection service, as well as enabling users to upload important documents online, such as, biographies, headshots, and anything else that’s legally required. Importantly, it would collect applications of qualified candidates.
In elections that are contingent on in-person annual meetings, such as cooperative and condominiums, a management system should be able to provide the option of a video teleconferencing software license to host your meetings remotely.
Security is vital when it comes to elections. If there are questions about the veracity of the results, then there’s the chance that members lose confidence in the system and decide not to participate in future elections. When researching security features, it’s recommended that vendors utilize single-vote verification to ensure someone doesn’t vote more than once—whether accidentally or intentionally. A voting management system that can also track ballots as they’re being returned and processed also provides an added layer of protection. You’ll know you’re dealing with a trusted vendor if they also provide encryption, independent audits, and 24/7 election security.
If the overall security of the system is important, then you also want to ensure that results are tabulated correctly. As we mentioned, you want members to be confident that the vote is secure and anonymous. A system that tabulates results correctly and can provide the final count within a reasonable time is one that your members will have confidence in going forward.
Don’t leave your voting management system to chance
While we all hope this pandemic eventually ends and that society returns to some semblance of normal in the near future, there’s nothing wrong with being overly prepared. The good news is that many of the features we outlined in this article predate the pandemic. That means trusted election management agencies should be able to execute an election—whether it’s remote or otherwise—effectively and without significant obstacles.
Elections are not only important for practical reasons but because it’s the one period when you have the ears of all your voting-eligible members, allowing you to connect with them in a meaningful way.
In short, you don't want to leave your voting management system to chance. Make sure it's dependable, offers a wide range of features, and can streamline your entire election process.
With years of experience managing elections across the United States, YesElections offers industry-leading security and a wide array of voting services to ensure members vote, and continue to do so, for years to come. Our voting management system provides nomination services, ballot distribution and tracking, single-vote verification and much more. Contact us today to request a complimentary consultation.