What is a Voting Management System?

Organizing an election isn’t easy, and definitely one of the most difficult endeavors you’ll undertake if you’re intent on going at it alone.

Basically, this is what most elections consist of:

There are nominations to be collected and processed. Candidates must be evaluated to ensure they meet certain qualifications. Members’ preferred voting methods must be decided. Ballots need to be designed, printed, shipped and tracked. And if you somehow manage to flawlessly navigate the pre-election process without any hiccups, there’s that small matter of running the actual election—and processing each and every vote accurately and securely. When all that’s properly settled, perhaps you’ll want to analyze who voted, and how, and determine the best way forward for future elections. Oh, and by the way, how much did this whole project cost, anyway?

Apologies for potentially producing any undue anxiety, because there’s actually a much better way to go about all this.

Member-based organizations with election experience can testify to the importance of partnering with an election management company that’s reliable, accessible, serious about security, and trustworthy.

After all, when it comes to elections, the top priority is ensuring results are accurate and the integrity of the vote is beyond reproach. When members cast ballots—whether it’s to elect officers, a board of directors, or approve union contracts—they assume the vote is protected, at all cost.

While this can all theoretically be achieved through exemplary customer service, sometimes it takes more than comforting words and well-intentioned promises to earn a client’s confidence.

A responsible partner not only invests heavily in internal systems, but is also mindful of the need for constant innovation, ever-greater turnout, enhanced security, and member privacy.

When considering an election partner, it’s critical that you scrutinize their Voting Management System. Do they have voting methods that work for your members? Do they prioritize security? Can they ensure the integrity of my election is maintained? These are vital questions that demand answers, because there’s much more to elections than simply casting a vote and hiring an agency to tabulate results.

A well-run election could mean increased turnout, greater engagement among members, eliminating unnecessary expenses, and more time to devote to equally important initiatives. Conversely, a poorly managed contest could exacerbate existing problems, be costly, make you skeptical of the results, and send you back to square one having to search for a new vendor who can pick up the pieces and start over.

The following is a guide of everything you need to know about Voting Management Systems, why they’re so important, and how you can differentiate premium services from their bare-bones counterparts.

Chapter 1

What Is A Voting Management System?

Besides setting up the mechanisms enabling ballots to be cast, election vendors build Voting Management Systems to organize these contests.

Think of a Voting Management System like a computer’s operating system, which is powerful software that manages its core functions. For example, Microsoft has its famed “Windows” operating system, and Apple, “macOS.”

Similarly, a Voting Management System is engineered to effectively administer every aspect of an election—from nominations through managing the bolts and nuts of contests, and processing final results.

Most organizations in the market for such a service are member-supported. These include teacher unions, medical associations, homeowners groups, cooperatives, and financial institutions, among others. They’re all required to operate elections to decide critical matters, or elect new representatives to various seats. The priority for the majority of these groups is to host efficient elections, encourage participation, protect privacy, and whenever possible, reduce costs.

A positive election experience can be directly linked to how well your partner’s respective election system performed.

First, let’s breakdown some of the key components of an election:
  • Candidate nominations
  • Ballots created and designed
  • Printed ballots must be mailed
  • Online ballots must be emailed to every member with an email address on file
  • Assets must be in place for on-site elections
  • Prepare for the election, ensuring all relevant bylaws and regulations are satisfied
  • Invest in security and data protection
  • Conduct the election
  • Securely and accurately tabulate results
  • Issue final reports to determine how future elections can be improved
Now let’s take a look at what premier Voting Management Systems offer:
  • Nomination processing, ballot design and mailings  
  • Multiple voting methods, including online, by mail, in-person voting, via telephone, and hybrid variations
  • Voting software that connects with a member’s pre-existing site
  • Top-tier security and secret ballots
  • Result tabulations and auditable votes
 

Let’s dig deeper into each of these features.

Chapter 2

Voting Management Systems & Election Nominations

Whether you represent a union, retirement fund, financial institution, or any other member-based organization, an election requires a full-scale nomination process. Prior to casting a single ballot, it’s incumbent on your organization to make it as simple as possible for members to nominate other qualified candidates.

Expertly created Voting Management Systems not only simplify the process by creating a one-stop shop where candidates can upload biographies, images, and other relevant information, but provide an option for members to nominate who they believe is best suited for a specific seat.

Of course, as the organization hosting the election, you’ll want to maintain control of the nomination process and ensure potential candidates meet internal eligibility requirements—a task you can easily perform through your client’s Voting Management System.

Additionally, organizations can utilize these systems to collect petition signatures by paper, online, or via a hybrid method, and create custom-designed ballots—an often tedious practice without the proper tools at your disposal.  

 

The Bottom Line:

Having a dedicated tool to collect nomination applications, publish biographies, upload images, and ultimately, manage the entire process, likely saves organizations precious time they could otherwise be spending working for their members.

Chapter 3

Most Common Voting Methods & How Voting
Management Systems Can Help

It goes without saying that any successful election requires a seamless voting process. While some Voting Management Systems may be equipped for specific types of elections, more specialized systems enable members to utilize multiple voting methods.

The most common voting methods include: by mail, the internet, in person, or via telephone. Depending on the vendor, there may also be an option to hold hybrid elections, permitting individuals to vote using their preferred method. Of course, the most cost-effective option is internet voting, because it eliminates exorbitant printing and mailing costs, and the web is where most of your members now prefer to handle their personal business, increasing the likelihood of participation.

While on the topic of the actual voting process, it’s important to note that online elections are even more stress-free when an election partner is able to link their tools with an organization’s existing member portals. Establishing a connection between the election company and member portals makes voting as simple as logging in to your site and casting a ballot.

Why is this important? Well, convenience aside, it means members won’t have to create a new online account and familiarize themselves with a foreign website. In a world in which consumers have passwords for a multitude of streaming services, credit cards, banking accounts, and everything else the internet offers, it’s one less thing they have to be concerned about.

 

The Bottom Line:

The top-performing Voting Management Systems on the market today offer myriad voting optionsby mail, internet, in person or via telephoneand simplify the process by establishing a virtual connection with an organization’s existing site.

Chapter 4

How To Ensure Your Vote Is Secure

Security. Reliability. Trust.

Those are three words—or at the very least, a variation of them—you should hear from any vendor you’re considering to manage your election.

Any responsible election management company should have a built-in security system that offers single-vote verification, ballot secrecy, data protection, and a failsafe that protects against a system-wide failure.

Of course, one of the top priorities of any organization is having the peace of mind that members can only vote once. Vendors with a trusted Voting Management System should incorporate a verification process that prevents duplicate voting, regardless of voting method.

Basically, this is how it should work: Once a member casts a ballot, whether it’s on-site, over the internet, or by mail, their name should immediately be classified as having voted.

Security also means having confidence that your mailed ballots—or those sent via email—were successfully delivered. With real-time ballot tracking, another feature of state-of-the-art voting systems, organizations can track ballots as they depart from the post office to the precise delivery time. For online voting, you can track click and open rates, as well as monitor an election, as it’s happening.

More encompassing voting systems may also include encryption, independent audits, member data protection, 24/7 election monitoring, and verifiable tabulation.

 

The Bottom Line:

With single-vote verification, ballot secrecy, data protection, and ballot tracking, robust Voting Management Systems prevent fraud while also maintaining the integrity of elections.

Chapter 5

Election Results

Elections, of course, are about determining a winner.

Whether the race pits two qualified candidates for a board position, or members are deciding on a measure that’ll directly impact their lives, the top priority is ensuring the results are 100-percent accurate.

A vendor’s Voting Management System should not only incorporate single-vote verification (discussed in the previous section), but also provide automated and accurate results, within minutes.

While the aforementioned real-time ballot tracking feature will give you a sense of voter participation as the contest unfolds, final tabulations should provide a detailed record containing the precise number of voting members, demographics, and, of course, the winners. Make sure to ask whether the vendor you’re considering is open to independent audits; if so, it would indicate they’re transparent, and confident in their abilities.

Organizations that have been working with a particular vendor throughout multiple elections may qualify for reports detailing how turnout compared to previous years. An analysis of year-over-year data could give you a clearer picture how members prefer to cast their votes, who is a reliable voter, and also showcase areas for improvement. Additionally, the election team should provide an overview and precise accounting of the results, which can only help to improve future elections.

 

The Bottom Line:

A company with an industry-leading Voting Management System should leverage the technology to provide clear and indisputable election results, issue comprehensive reports, and make recommendations to improve future elections.

Chapter 6

Why Is Voting Important?

For organizations with members, elections present an extraordinary opportunity to reconnect with constituents, and distribute important information to them. Voting is important because it gives your members a stake in your organization’s success, while assuring them that their voice matters. It also creates a sense of community knowing that everyone is working toward a greater purpose.

Voting is also hugely important for members because contested board seats or certain measures, such as voting for a new union contract, for example, directly impacts their lives. Elections aren’t frivolous exercises meant to appease the masses. These contests quite literally improve the lives of members and their families.

As mentioned previously, one of the easiest ways to encourage members to participate is to simplify the process. How do you accomplish that? Well, internet voting may be the most surefire way of bringing people to the polls. Thinking digital is important, because people are spending significant portions of their days sifting through emails, replying to texts, and updating social media. Providing elections at their fingertips demonstrates that your group is investing in the future, while simultaneously making it much easier for members to vote.

Chapter 7

The Takeaway

The Takeaway

It should be apparent by now that comprehensive Voting Management Systems are critical to the success of any election. In effect, these tools hold the key to an entire contest, from coordinating nominations to designing and mailing ballots and managing the actual voting process.

Here are just a few of the many benefits highlighted above:
  • Streamline election process
  • Ensure nominations run smoothly
  • Compatible with various voting methods
  • Secure ballots
  • Accurate and timely election tabulation
  • A one-stop shop where everything can be managed

To recap, Voting Management Systems offer an all-encompassing solution to seemingly onerous elections. From nominations to guaranteeing that ballots are safely delivered and managing a smooth election, these tools literally do it all. So the next time you’re in the market for a new election management agency, ask them about their software and how they organize elections. If they cover some—or most—of the aforementioned benefits, they might just get your vote.