A look at the advantages of advanced online voting
Let’s imagine that the spring quarter is approaching, and your university is gearing up for a series of voting events. Your Academic Senate and Student Government will be electing new representatives for the coming academic year, and the university administration wants to issue a survey to learn more about student, faculty, and staff needs. With the number of generic voting, polling, and surveying tools available online, you may wonder how your university can benefit from its own dedicated online voting system. In the end, it comes down to security and efficiency.
A secure voting platform
Basic online voting tools pose a number of security risks, particularly for universities. First and foremost, these forms, polls, and surveys can easily be created and customized by anyone. This means it is entirely feasible for a bad actor to create a form with your university’s name, logo, branding, and colors. If this form then gets shared with members of your university, they may unintentionally disclose sensitive information like email addresses and passwords, thinking that the form is legitimate. This type of phishing scam has been identified repeatedly and has been used against companies like AT&T, Capital One, Office 365, and Wells Fargo, as well as various universities, including Kansas State University, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Skidmore College, the University of Delaware, and the University of Pittsburgh.
With a secure and advanced dedicated online voting system, however, the voting platform is impossible to mimic and the implementation of a customized voting URL ensures that your university members know they are in the right place before entering sensitive information. Furthermore, these online voting systems can also integrate directly with your university’s internal authentication system (SAML), meaning users can log on to the voting portal just as they log on to complete any other online university process, rather than through an external source.
A dedicated online voting platform also keeps data secure far better than most free online polling and surveying tools. All data transmitted through the online voting system is protected with end-to-end encryption, and data included in ballots and votes cannot be read until the decryption process is initiated by the appropriate organizers. This not only help keep personal data anonymous, but also protects voter privacy.
Streamlined voting and events
Another major benefit to adopting a dedicated online voting solution for your university is that it unifies every voting process within the same system. This means that, with each event, there is no need to start from scratch, wasting precious time on mundane and routine tasks like inputting participant information or customizing the platform with logos and colors. With an online voting system, all eligible voters or participants can be uploaded to the system and grouped according to certain specifications, like whether they are faculty, staff, or students. Then, with each voting event, it merely becomes a question of creating the ballots or survey questions and selecting the groups eligible to participate.
Returning to our example from the beginning of the article, it is easy to see how a dedicated online voting system can streamline the events of the busy spring quarter. Rather than each group deciding on and setting up their own online voting channel, they can all rely on the same solution. When the ballots for the Academic Senate and Student Government elections are ready, it is merely a question of assigning the right voters to each ballot and sending off the election notifications. Meanwhile, the survey can be sent to the entire voter list. Better yet, if any events, like a campus-wide survey, repeat annually, it is a simple and easy process to duplicate them for the future.
In the end, there are many benefits to adopting a dedicated online voting system for your university. While there are generic tools available for polls and surveys, nothing comes close to the security and efficiency guaranteed by a state-of-the-art system designed by true election experts.