Preparing for the Big Day
Elections for your university are coming up and you’ve decided to use an online voting solution. Perhaps you were looking to increase participation or to simplify the election process while minimizing your resource use. Regardless of the reasons why you chose an online voting option, you’ll need to prepare for the big day, just as you would for any other election. Here’s what you need to know about getting ready for an election with online voting:
Creating the Voter List
In order for an online voting system to know who is eligible to vote in any given election, it needs an up-to-date and accurate voter list. Typically, the information on this list includes the voters’ names or ID information, and some contact information, such as an email address.
Luckily, universities often have an intranet system in use that they use to verify the identity of different university members and to grant them access to particular online services. Your online voting solution should easily integrate with your intranet system (SAML), and your online voting provider should offer the assistance needed to make sure everything is up and running correctly.
From there, it is just a simple process of determining who exactly is eligible to vote in your given election, if it is not open to the entire university community. It may also be beneficial to segment your voters into groups, such as students, faculty, and staff.
Communicating the Voting Process
It is always a good idea to offer clear communication on voting processes well before an election. If voters know what or who they are voting for and are confident that they know how to vote, then they are more likely to participate.
Any communications about your upcoming election should include details about the online voting procedure, and whether or not it is the only voting method available. Voters should be informed about where exactly they can find the online voting portal, and how they can authenticate themselves and log in to the system. Of course, your online voting provider can help you iron out these details and instructions.
Send the Voting Credentials
In order to access the voting portal and cast ballots, voters will need credentials, like a username and password, to enter the system. In some elections, these credentials are sent by the online voting provider to each voter via email or SMS. Since online voting systems often integrate with university intranet system, though, this may not be necessary as voters can use their university credentials (such as an email or ID number and a password) to log in.
For additional security, upon entering their credentials, voters may be sent a one-time-link (OTL) to their email address or phone number. This is a form of two-factor authentication, as it requires the voter to have both knowledge of the log in credentials, and access to a personal email or mobile phone. After clicking the link, which only works once, the voter will be granted access to the portal and can cast their ballot.
As the election organizer, you should be aware of these processes for purposes of communicating them to voters. However, your online voting provider should handle the technical processes involved.
Creating the Online Ballots
Finally, before opening the election for voting, you need to create the online ballots. This is typically a remarkably simple process, as you will just need to input the candidate or item names and information into the correct fields.
Then, you can select the voting method (single choice, multiple choice, preferential, etc.) for each ballot item, and set any other election specifications that might be necessary.
If different voter groups, such as students, faculty, and staff, will be voting on different ballot items, you can easily create multiple ballots, assigning the correct ballot to each voter group.
Performing Quality Assurance
With your ballots created, the voter list uploaded, and the voting credentials distributed, your almost ready for election day. Now is the time to undergo some quality assurance in order to make sure everything is working as it should be, and that your election is set up correctly.
With the help of your online voting provider, you will test your ballots and the online voting system itself, verifying that the questions, candidate, and voting methods are correct, and that the system is accurately registering votes. Having been assured that the election will be conducted properly, you are now ready for the big day!
Overall, preparing for an online election is much like preparing for a paper-based election. Thanks to the innovative technology in an online election, much of the planning
process can be streamlined and simplified. Moreover, your online voting provider will be with you every step of the way to ensure success. With online voting technology in hand, you can look forward to efficient and secure elections and decision-making events that encourage participation through greater accessibility.