Everything you need to know to run flawless votes and elections.
There is alot involved in managing an election. From gathering your voters to educating them about your upcoming event, you want to be sure that you’re covering all of the bases needed for a successful vote. Whether you’re a new election admin or someone who’s being doing it along time, there are always new and better practices that will make your job a little bit easier.
To help you with managing the voting process, we’ve written up a complete online election checklist so nothing gets overlooked. Use this checklist as a reference when you are preparing your ballot to start running elections like it’s second nature.
First things first, it’s important to know what type of election or vote you are responsible for running. Are you self-managing your election or are you having your event fully managed?
The difference is this:
Self-Managed Elections vs. Managed Services Elections
Self-managed elections are those that are managed in whole or in part by the election administrator (you). While it is a popular option, it does require a bit more work on your end as far as setting up your ballot, notifying your voters, and ensuring turnout. Self-managed elections give the election admin complete or partial control of their entire election from start to finish, which is why most admins prefer this option.
Managed services elections are completely managed by the online voting solutions provider. You may need to provide them with details about your voters and give them specific instructions about how you want your vote to be run, but otherwise the entire promotion and management of your voting event is handled by a team of professionals.
For the purposes of this blog, this checklist pertains to the self-managed election administrators because these are items you will need to ensure that you have or do in order to make the most of your election. This checklist is particularly useful for those running their voting event using an online voting platform.
A Complete Online Election Checklist
Step 1: Update Your List of Voters
Self-administered votes require that the election admin keep an updated list of potential voters. This means that you should do a complete sweep of the people in your organization that are eligible to vote. Ensure that:
- Your updated list accounts for new hires and removes employees that have left or have been terminated.
- You update their contact information, typically their email addresses or other identifiers.
- You have a list that includes their full first and last name.
Next, you’ll want to add filters and weights if your voting platform supports it. Filters help you segment your voter list if you only want certain voters to vote on specific questions. Weights are useful if you have voters in your organization that hold more influence than others. This is common in a shareholder or homeowner’s association vote.
Step 2: Build Your Ballot
As easy as it sounds, there are many steps that can go overlooked in this setup process. Besides the obvious ballot title and ballot open and close date, you’ll want to pay close attention to items such as:
- Brand imagery – Add your own logo or company colors to make your ballot recognizable to voters.
- Instructions – Many online voting platforms come with pre-filled voting instructions. If you have specific guidelines you want your voters to see, you might want to add them here.
- Real-time results schedule – If your voting platform offers instant results, you’ll want to double check how to set up your ballot in order to see these results when your ballot opens.
Step 3: Add Candidate Profiles
In any ballot, you’re going to want to decide what kind of questions and answers you want. Whether it’s multiple choice or single choice answers, or your ballot is based on candidates rather than things, you’ll have to know this beforehand.
If you are voting on a person, as in a typical election, you’ll want to make sure your candidate profiles are properly filled out.
It’s no surprise that people tend to make more informed decisions when they have more information, so ensure that your candidate profiles contain:
- Professional headshots of the individuals running for office
- A summary of their achievements and objectives
- Any additional supporting information that will assist your voters in their decision making
Step 4: Notify Your Voters
This is arguably the most important step, because without voter awareness you would have no participation in your event. Notifying your voters of your upcoming event can be accomplished in several ways:
- Sending a series of emails before and during your event
- Sending a single email before your event
- Notifying voters on social media
It goes without saying that your online voting event needs to be complemented by a solid email campaign strategy. This means that you could potentially do all three of the aforementioned suggestions, however you really only need the first. A single email will give voters a heads up, but it won’t remind them about your vote or help with any issues that arise. A social media strategy is a great complement to your email campaign, but you can’t transmit sensitive voter details in such a public space.
To plan your email campaign, you’re going to need at least three emails.
- First email – Send this before your election goes live. It should include voter login information (for more information on voter login methods read this), information about the upcoming vote, and contact information so your voters can get in touch with you.
- Second email – This is a reminder email and can be sent during your live election to encourage more participation. Often people forget or lose their emails in their inboxes, so this is a great way to get important login information back to your voters.
- Third email – This final email can be sent as a final push to get as many people to vote before the event closes.
If your voting system allows it, remember to check your email by testing it. Send one to yourself so you can see it exactly how your voters will. Be sure to make any changes necessary before finalizing your campaign.
Step 5: Review Your Ballot Checklist
Hopefully, your online voting platform will notify you if you are missing any crucial elements (we do this) but if not, you can always compare your progress with this list or create your own based on your ballots settings. As a bare minimum, you should have:
- An updated voter list
- A fully completed ballot
- Questions, answers, and candidate information if relevant
- A comprehensive email campaign
Step 6: Test Your Ballot
By this point, your ballot should be packaged nicely and be ready to go. However, as a last and final check, you should always test your ballot. A good way to do this is to login to your ballot as either yourself or a mock voter and go through the entire voting process from start to finish. This will give you a good idea of the information you are presenting and whether or not you have missed any crucial elements during ballot setup.
Step 7: Activate Your Ballot
It’s time to make your ballot live. Once the ballots open up, be prepared to start seeing voter activity, and even more if you planned your email campaigns right. Some things to note during this step are:
- How many voters are voting during specific times or days
- Which voters have yet to vote
- Which voters have looked at the ballot but have not yet submitted their vote
If you have a voting platform that provides this information, this is a great opportunity to send out additional emails to boost participation. What’s more, is that the lessons you learn during setting up your ballot will make it easier to run more effective votes next time around.
Be sure to share your results with your organization and educate voters (and if need be, train them on the nuances of online voting) to continue to improve turnout and participation for the future.
eBallot is fully equipped to offer all of the features discussed in this election checklist, to learn more about what we offer and how we can help new and seasoned election admins alike, head to our Capabilities page.