Successful elections rely on careful planning and flawless implementation. Not only must the election administrator set up the ballot correctly and manage voter expectations, they must find new ways of encouraging buy-in from their organization. When it comes to association elections, agreeing on a new policy or electing your next board member may be your clear end goal, however, getting there isn’t always so simple.
High participation and voter turnout is always a key factor when determining an election’s success. How do you ensure your voters cast their votes so you can get an accurate and fair result? You can accomplish this by paying attention to these best practices:
Decide on a budget.
Costs associated with voting can really add up if you’re not careful. Typically, this depends on the type of voting style you want to pursue. Does your organization rely on paper ballots? Then you’ll need to factor in printing and mailing costs. Or have you decided that you want to try online voting? Think about whether or not security is important to you. You can go with free surveys, simple polls, or you can try a closed voting solution that only allows certain people to access your ballot. These factors and more will affect your budget so take some time to think about what is most important to you and your voters.
Choose of a method of voting that’s accessible to your organization.
If you haven’t made the switch to electronic voting already, it may be because you have an alternative way of voting that you believe everyone can use. This line of thinking is correct; however, a successful election is based on a voting system foundation that’s not only accessible but secure. Your current voting system might mean that anyone can use it, but you don’t want your voter’s ballots getting into the wrong hands. A online voting system is a perfect solution because it not only lets voters easily access their ballots from anywhere, on any device, it also authenticates your voters information – ensuring that only those eligible to vote get a chance to participate.
Onboard your organization to new voting technology.
Assuming you’re now considering an online voting solution, you’re going to need to put aside some time to onboard your organization to your new voting platform. You can do this a number of ways, from emailing step-by-step voting guides to hosting informal training sessions. You can even prepare a mock ballot and have your voters log in and cast their vote exactly how they would on election day. However, you decide to introduce new voting technology to your voters, ensure they have enough time to familiarize themselves with the process. The last thing you need on election day is your voters not knowing how to access their ballots.
Invest in vote management services.
Depending on the type of election or voting event you are running, there can be a lot riding on it. The responsibility of ensuring a seamless election takes a lot of organization and planning, so why not let an expert help? Vote management services are additional services that your online voting provider offers to help take some of the responsibility off your plate. Even if you’re the type of election administrator who prefers to be involved in every aspect of the election process, you might want to consider handing off duties such as strategic promotional planning or day-of-the-event troubleshooting.
Promote your vote.
Speaking of promotional planning, it’s crucial to have an outreach strategy so that your voters are aware that the vote is taking place and know exactly where and how to vote. You can promote your vote through email or social media, or you can post the details of your vote in common areas throughout your organization (never share voter login information publicly). Promoting your vote not only is necessary for ensuring that voters access their ballot without a hitch, it’s important for combatting voter apathy by sharing exactly why their vote counts and is needed. We recommend a consistent promotion strategy before, during and sometimes even after your election.
Now that we’ve shared best practices to follow, here’s what not to do:
Choose tricky login information.
Associations prefer to use an electronic voting platform for their elections because they offer authenticity and security. In order for voters to participate, they typically have to enter unique login credentials that are chosen for them by the vote administrator or the voting system itself. This ensures that no one else can access their ballot and cast a fraudulent vote. While this security practice is recommended, we also encourage administrators to choose passwords that are recognizable and relatable to the voter. One example of this would be to use a member ID.
Use an outdated voter database.
Like any organization, yours probably experiences a certain amount of turnover. You’ll want to review your voter database for any discrepancies or errors before sending out login credentials and ballot details. An outdated voter database can often contain expired email addresses, not account for promotions or department changes, and can lead to incorrect information being sent to your voters. If you’re using an online voting system that bills you per voter, ensure your voter database is up to date so you don’t get charged for voters that are no longer at your association.
Overlook your candidate profiles.
Voters need context in order to make the right decision. When you present a candidate with enough information, you’re giving them the power to make an informed choice. On the other hand, your candidates also deserve a chance to share their mission or experience. Candidate profiles are a great way to get their message across and can be shared before the vote so your voters have time to review.
Don’t underestimate your election security plan.
We’ve mentioned security a couple of times because we can’t stress its importance enough. No matter how big the initiative is you’re voting on, you do not want to put yourself in any situation where your or your voter’s data is compromised. A good voting system will have sound security infrastructure in place and ensure that your data is backed up regularly. Regular security updates and a disaster recovery plan is always something you should consider when using or choosing a voting provider.
Forget to have a voter support plan.
Voter experience matters when it comes to planning your election, and any future elections. No matter how much you prepare or train your voters, it’s best to have a backup plan to account for any unexpected mishaps. If you are not equipped to handle voter inquiries or troubleshooting leading up to your event or even during it, you may want to outsource this responsibility to either your voting providers support team or create a team of your own. A voter support team’s goal is to ensure your voters can login correctly, access their ballot, and submit their vote without issue.
This list of best practices should give you a better idea of how to plan and execute your upcoming association election. For more information on how we help your association’s implement successful votes, take a look at our eBallot for Business service here.