Secure, Convenient, and Transparent Elections
Student governments hold yearly or biannual elections to elect representatives and various offices like presidents, secretaries, and treasurers. As student governments act as a voice for the student body, and as they are often in charge of allocating certain funds for student needs, it is important that they are trusted by and representative of a university’s student population.
However, trends show that engagement and participation in student government elections is often quite low. In 2019, turnout in student government elections at Big Ten schools averaged under 10% of the student body. Such low participation is not surprising if we turn to historic data: an analysis of 100 universities and colleges across the US published in 2012 found that average student government election turnout across these schools was just 13.4%; and an earlier 2005 study found similar results with most schools experiencing participation rates of 5-15% of the student body.
In other words, it is rare for even 1 in 5 students to cast a ballot in student government elections, and exceedingly rare that a majority of all students vote to elect their representatives. This has significant impacts on how the student government, and the initiatives they try to pursue, are seen and received by the student body. Encouraging engagement and participation in elections is thus a central goal for student governments across the US.
Online Voting for Increased Participation
Allowing students to vote online is one of the best ways to increase participation in student government elections. Students often have busy and set schedules, and it can be difficult to convince them to take time out of their day to go to an in-person voting location to cast a paper ballot. With an online voting solution, students simply click on a link from any internet-connected device and cast their ballot from any location whenever it is convenient for them.
Furthermore, with an online voting system that integrates with your university’s SAML, students simply log on to the voting portal using the same credentials for logging on to the university’s intranet, ensuring familiarity and ease of use.
Thanks to the verifiability mechanisms of certain online voting solutions, students will also have a better sense that their vote is accurately counted, and their voice heard, encouraging further engagement and building trust. These mechanisms include voting receipts that students receive after casting their ballot, verifying that their vote was successfully cast and recorded.
Finally, an online voting solution greatly increases the accessibility of the election process for voters with disabilities, allowing them to cast ballots without having to face inaccessible voting location, and also while using any adaptive technology that they may already be comfortable with.
How to Implement Online Voting
For most student governments, voting methods are detailed in a constitution or electoral guidelines and by-laws. It may be necessary to hold a vote in order to amend these rules to allow for the casting of ballots via an online voting system.
Once online voting has been established as a possible voting option, you’ll need to choose an online voting solution. This should always be done with your university’s IT and security team’s assistance in order to ensure the protection of all sensitive data. In this same vein, it is important to evaluate an online voting system’s security guarantees.
With your online voting solution in place, setting up your election is easy and streamlined. Simply work with the solution provider to create the online ballots by supplying the necessary candidate and election information. Then it is merely a matter of distributing the link for the voting portal to all eligible voters. Once the election is over, results are calculated instantly and winners can be announced.
Beyond increased participation, online voting can also offer added security, increased efficiency, and greater sustainability to your student government elections. Moreover, a single online voting solution can easily be used and configured for multiple elections, including those for faculty senate, and staff associations, streamlining all university electoral processes. To find out more about how your student government or university can get started with Scytl’s Invote Pro, ask for a demo today.