Tips for overcoming potential election pitfalls and improving voter turnout

Running an election can be a complex process, there are potential election pitfalls that may determine the success or failure of voter turnout in any non-statutory democratic process, be it in the NHS, housing sector, educational establishments or professional organisations.

If organisations want the largest possible number of members to vote, they will need to engage with their audience by reaching out and persuading voters to actively participate in the election process and cast their votes. It’s vital therefore that every effort should be made to ensure that the voting experience is as stress-free and straightforward as possible.

Getting voters suitably engaged and informed can be hampered by one or more of the following common election pitfalls.

Potential Election Pitfall # 1:  Over-complicated election process

If unnecessary hurdles are put in the way of the electorate, the less chance they will vote. An overly complicated process can put voters off. Make the election process easily-understandable and keep it simple, whether the method is a postal ballot or e-voting, clear instructions and guidance must be provided.  Relevant contact details should also be accessible, including a standard rate telephone number so that voters can easily reach someone for assistance at local rate.

Potential Election Pitfall # 2: Targeting engaged voters

It stands to reason that members who are already enthusiastic and engaged with the election need less persuasion. They will invariably vote in any election process that affects them. In UK Engage’s experience organisations can further improve turnout by targeting resources on the people who either aren’t engaged or have forgotten to vote. Data analytic tools can help to identify where efforts should be targeted and direct, personalised reminder communications should be developed and distributed to encourage members who have not yet exercised their right to vote, to do so.

Potential Election Pitfall # 3: Making reminder information complex or ‘wordy’

The K.I.S.S. principle (keep it simple and straightforward) should be kept in mind when preparing reminder messages to the electorate. Voters simply need to know who they can vote for, how they can cast a vote, when they need to vote by, and why they should vote.

If the reminder is overly-wordy, it maybe be ignored or discarded. It is therefore a good idea to keep any last-minute reminders to vote short, concise and direct.

Potential Election Pitfall # 4:  Not allowing a long enough voting window

The length of an election period needs to be long enough to allow the voter to receive their ballot information (whether online or postal), digest the contents, make an informed decision and cast their vote. The election period can be set by the organisation running the election, or can be recommended by an election services specialist like UK Engage, this is usually around two weeks, depending on the client and the complexity of the election process. Sometimes, as with public elections UK Engage will advise that an election closes on a Thursday so that results can be announced on a Friday.

Potential Election Pitfall # 5: Communicate the election message via one medium only

If organisations only communicate an election message via one medium, be that digital or print, it’s inevitable that the message will fail to be seen by a section of the electorate. Organisations who wish to engage with the widest possible audience should use every available channel to spread the word about the election. Social media platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Google+ or Facebook have become common practice for most organisations. Digital media can potentially reach audiences that are often inaccessible to conventional communications, and can deliver real-time information instantly. So, if possible organisations should incorporate social networking technologies in their strategic election plans.

UK Engage offers a wealth of expertise in all aspects of electoral services, voting, surveys, scrutineering, adjudication services, member engagement and referendum management.

If you are looking for expert electoral services advice, then look no further than UK Engage. Contact us on 0161 209 4808 or email

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