planning a vote tips

Five tips when planning a vote

Tim SlaterSecret Ballot, Voting Management

Are you planning a vote? Here are five quick tips to help make it a success.

Issue clear, concise voting instructions

Planning a vote means being across the detail. Instructions need to be issued to voters with everything they need to know to participate. These instructions should be as clear as possible, with the following things being defined at a minimum:

  • The voting period and timezone.
  • The context of the vote, or what is being voted on.
  • Voter authentication instructions.
  • Step by step guides for casting a vote.
  • Contacts for voter support.

Send voting instructions and reminders by email when possible

The best voting instructions are of little value if they’re never received. The two main options are post and email. Post is slower and more expensive, and never 100% reliable. We would recommend at least a week for delivery by post, plus time to generate the relevant documents. Email is faster, cheaper and more reliable, and it also offers the option to issue reminders throughout the voting period. In our experience, email distribution results in a higher voter participation rate.

Choose at least two voting channels that suit your voters

How will people cast their votes in your election or ballot? The answer should ideally depend on the needs of your voting population. Whether it be in person, by post, or electronic, casting a vote should be convenient and easy to do. Providing a minimum of two voting channels, such as online and SMS, tends to overcome any access problems voters may have during the voting period.

Authenticate your voters with details they will know or have access to

We touched on voter authentication above. For more on the importance of this, see this post. Whatever is used, it is critical that authentication information is either familiar to each voter, or that voters know where to find it. Ideally, it will be in a similar format for all voters so that this can be made explicit in the voting instructions. GoVote generally recommends the combination of a PIN (generated by us) and one additional detail, such as a payroll or membership number.

Consider whether sending instructions by post can replace postal voting

Many of our clients are moving from postal voting to modern electronic voting channels. We understand the desire to make this a smooth transition, but does that mean continuing to offer postal voting as well? A good compromise is to utilise electronic voting methods but to distribute voting instructions by post. We’re yet to come across the voter who can send a letter but not utilise one of our telephone, SMS or online voting systems.