Online Voting for Coops & Credit Unions
Elections for your cooperative’s or credit union’s board of directors are coming up and the election committee has decided to implement an online voting solution for the first time. How will the election be different with an online voting channel as opposed to typical paper-based voting? What changes and, more importantly, what benefits can you expect?
From planning the event to calculating the final results, an online voting solution has the ability to streamline and simplify every step of the election process. Let’s walk through a typical board of directors election, from start to finish, and see what introducing an online voting system might entail.
Planning the Election and Notifying Voters
As soon as the basic details of the election are decided, like the date and time when voting will take place, your credit union or coop election committee can begin finalizing the details of your election:
1. List of eligible voters: create the list of eligible voters that are allowed to participate in the election. In order for eligible voters to access the online voting portal, this voter list should contain accurate contact information for each voter, such as an email address and phone number.
2. Give voters access to the online voting system: Once the voter list is created, it is easily uploaded to the online voting system. At this point, voters will receive credentials that they can use to log on to the voting portal once the election begins. Depending on the preferences of the voter, or your coop or union, these credentials can be sent via email, SMS, or postal mail.
3. Create the ballots: This should be as simple as filling in the candidate information and adding them to the list of possible choices. The online voting system should also accommodate any voting system your coop or credit union uses, such as preferential voting or multiple choice, as well as the possibility for write-in candidates and voter abstention.
Should your election process also consist of a nomination period prior to voting, the necessary ballots can also be configured in the online voting portal and voters can be notified once the nomination process has begun.
With the online voting system set up and ready, it’s now time to vote! Eligible voting members can use their credentials to log on to the voting portal from an internet connected device, no matter where they are. On the portal, they will be able to find the ballot, as well as any additional information the election committee deemed necessary to include, such as a reminder of the voting rules and the date and time when voting will close.
Casting an online ballot is as simple as selecting your preferred candidate(s) or marking your preference for a specific number of candidates, confirming your choices, and clicking “CAST.” Ballots are automatically encrypted directly on the voter’s device and will remain encrypted until the election committee authorizes their decryption.
Depending on the online voting solution, each voter may also receive a voting receipt which they can use to verify that the system correctly received their ballot and included it in the final results. This receipt is typically an anonymous code unique to each voter’s ballot. At the end of the election, a list of these codes is published, allowing voters to identify their ballot among those recorded by the system.
Calculating Results and Announcing Winners
Once the voting period closes, results can be calculated immediately. To begin this process, the election committee initiates the decryption of each ballot, a process that also breaks any link between a ballot and the voter who cast it, ensuring voter privacy and anonymity. Results are then automatically tallied within the online voting system.
Depending on your coop or credit union’s election bylaws, these results may be published directly on the online voting portal, or they may be announced at a later time, such as during an upcoming annual general meeting.
Integration with Paper Voting
Of course, an online voting solution might not be the only voting channel available during your board of directors election. For example, it might also be possible to cast postal ballots ahead of the election, or to cast in-person ballots at an annual general meeting. Luckily, an online voting solution can easily be used alongside each of these voting methods.
If this is the case, it’s important to have proper bylaws in place to ensure that voters do not have more than one ballot included in the final tally. This can be done simply by prioritizing the channels. For instance, it may be decided that if a voter casts an in-person ballot as well as an online ballot, the online ballot is discarded and the in-person ballot is tallied. Alternatively, if there is an advanced voting option through postal voting, the voter list can be updated right before election day to reflect only those voters who did not cast a postal ballot.
At the end of the election, the results calculated in the online voting system are simply added to those manually tabulated from the paper voting methods, and the final results can then be announced.
Hopefully this article gave a helpful example of planning a board of directors election with an online voting channel in place. From streamlined planning to convenient voting and immediate results calculation, online voting has the potential to simplify every step of your next board of directors election. As always, in order to ensure a smooth election with online voting, it is best to choose a provider that backs up their technology with experienced election experts who can support you from start to finish.