Online ballots are a great way to save money on paper and postage costs associated with traditional paper voting.  These days the cost benefit alone is attractive to organisations, but add to that the ease, security and real-time statistic benefits, and it’s easy to see why so many organisations prefer this method of voting.

So how do online ballots work?

Online ballots work in the same way as traditional ballots, they just happen online.  First of all, your independent scrutineer will need to know certain criteria.  Such as: –

– What is the voting method?

This will be determined by your Articles of Association, constitution or election rules.  The two most common voting methods are First Past the Post (FPTP) and the Single Transferable Vote (STV).  The voting method will determine how your online ballot is built.

– How many emails do you hold for your members?

This isn’t essential to your online ballot, but it can help further reduce costs.  If you have GDPR-compliant data and regularly send emails to members, then your independent scrutineer can send out your voting information and unique voting codes, via email.


Step 1:  Building the online ballot voting site

Once you have provided all the information about your election, your independent scrutineer will begin to build your secure online ballot site.  They will usually have a technical team to do this.  The site build includes actions such as: –

  • Administering the correct voting method
  • Uploading candidate photos, statements or videos
  • Setting the date and time the online ballot will open and close
  • Adding aesthetics to suit the client’s brand identity

Step 2: Uploading member/voting data

Once the site is built and the client has determined its eligible voting members, the data file will be uploaded to the voting site.  The data will include each member’s voting code (which will have been generated by the scrutineer beforehand). Only that member will be able to vote using the code assigned and they will only be able to use it once.

At this stage, the data uploaded can be used to determine any other statistics the client wishes to know. For example, if the client wishes to know the age (bracket), gender, membership type or ethnicity of voters, this information would need to be in the original data set.  This means that at any point during the ballot the client can see the turnout by certain criteria.

Once the site is built and the data included, voters need to be informed of their voting code and instructions on how to vote in an online ballot.

Step 3: Informing members

Once the site has been built and tested, you can provide members with the information they need to cast their vote in your online ballot.  The way voting information is distributed is up to you. However, as mentioned earlier, if you have email addresses it may be more cost-effective to distribute this information via email.

Sometimes, organisations will send our pre-ballot information in order to prepare their members for the ballot.  In our experience, this can help overall turnout as members are aware that the ballot will happen and why their participation is important.

Whether you decide to send ballot information via email or post, members will receive their voting information complete with all the relevant information they require to cast their vote/s. The web address to the online ballot site should appear on postal communications (or as a hyperlink in an email), plus the voter’s unique code will be included, in addition to instructions and any other pertinent information.

Step 4: Monitoring progress

Monitoring voter turnout once the online ballot has begun is very easy. Using a system like UK Engage’s, organisations can access the turnout section of the site to see the progress. As mentioned earlier, if the organisation has requested visibility on a certain set of criteria, they can view it in real-time. For security and integrity, although the client can see voting via the criteria they have selected, it isn’t possible to view who has voted, as the voting information is encrypted.

Step 5: Counting the online ballot votes

Once the ballot has closed, the system will no longer allow members to vote. If the ballot is paperless then all the votes will already be secure in the system.  The Returning Officer will then check the final results on the site and determine the winner or winners, depending on the number of available seats.

Paperless ballots do have certain advantages and are requested for most organisational ballots and elections. To find out a full list of online ballot benefits please visit this section of our website or please feel free to call us and speak with an advisor.

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