Sunday, June 25, 2017

OpaVote now has Guaranteed Email Delivery

OpaVote is excited to announce a new feature that we call guaranteed email delivery. For an election manager, it is extremely important that voters receive their ballots, and OpaVote now goes to the extreme to make this happen. This is necessarily a complicated topic so please read to the end to understand our guarantee.

OpaVote provides managers with detailed information regarding the delivery of each email that is sent. Emails are in one of 4 states:
  • Pending -- OpaVote hasn't yet sent the email. Emails get sent at a rate of 2 per second so it may take a little time for all the emails to be sent.
  • In Transit -- OpaVote has sent the email but the receiving mail server hasn't decided whether to accept it yet.
  • Rejected -- This can mean one of three things: (i) the email bounced, (ii) the voter opted out of receiving emails, or (iii) the voter marked the email as spam.
  • Delivered -- The receiving mail server accepted the email, and nearly all of the time, the email will reach the voter's inbox.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Manual Tie Breaks for Counts

We've added a new feature to our OpaVote Counts that has been a long time coming...

An OpaVote "Count" is the online equivalent of the old OpenSTV software that is no longer available, and a Count lets you count ranked ballots with 23 different counting methods (e.g., ranked-choice voting, instant runoff voting, or the single transferable vote), a variety of counting options, and withdrawing candidates.

With an OpaVote Count, you can now break ties manually. When you initially count the votes, any ties will be broken randomly. After the initial count, you can recount the votes, and in doing the recount you have the option to manually specify how ties are to be broken.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Elections in español, français, and português!

OpaVote gets customers from all around the world running elections in many different languages. Previously, when election managers provided text in their own language, voters would see a mix of their own language and English.

We are excited to announce that OpaVote now fully supports elections in Spanish, French, and Portuguese! When setting up the election, the manager can choose his or her language, and this will cause OpaVote to send voting emails in that language and also present voting pages in that language. Your voters will see only their own language.

Here are some statistics I found regarding the number of people who speak a language (including non-native speakers):
  • 510 million who speak English
  • 420 million who speak Spanish
  • 213 million who speak Portuguese
  • 130 million who speak French
With this update, we've more than doubled the number of voters who can use OpaVote entirely in their own language.

These are the top candidates for future languages to be added to OpaVote:
  • 1 billion speak Chinese
  • 255 million speak Russian
  • 230 million speak Arabic
  • 229 million speak German
  • 127 million speak Japanese
I've left off Hindi and Punjabi because I'm thinking many of these people speak English.  Let me know if I should add those to the list as well.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

OMG, All Voting Systems are Flawed!!!

Sorry, for the silly title, but I couldn't think of good one for this post... In this post, I'll present a simple example of a set of 34 ballots where three different voting systems (plurality, instant runoff voting, and Condorcet) each select a different winner.

There are two points to showing this example.

First, the title relates to Arrow's Theorem, which loosely speaking, proves that all methods of counting votes are flawed in some way. It sounds fatalistic at first. How can we possibly elect our leaders if there is no right way of doing so?

Well, no voting system is perfect, but many of them are good. There are lot's of differences of opinion as to which voting system is "best" or should be used for different applications. Your organization needs to consider the options and select what you think is best (we have recommendations here, here, here, and here).

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

By-Elections or Filling Vacant Seats with RCV

Sometimes it happens that an elected office becomes unexpectedly vacant. The person who held the office may resign, be kicked out, or have died. When this happens, the office may remain vacant until the next scheduled election or a special election or by-election may be held specifically to fill the vacant seat.

One cool feature about ranked-choice voting is that it is REALLY easy to reuse the ballots to fill a vacancy. This avoids the expense and hassle of having people come out to vote again to fill the vacancy. We'll address single-winner and multi-winner elections separately because there are different considerations.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why We Love Online Voting Tools (And You Should, Too!)

Making the switch to online voting can prompt some understandable concerns. Voters who are used to physical ballots may wonder what happens to votes that are collected and tallied with the help of online voting software. But as the advantages of online voting tools quickly reveal themselves, your voters will love online voting as much as we do.

Online Voting Is Convenient for Organizations and Voters

You can set up and distribute ballots in minutes, rather than the days or weeks it can take to get ballots printed and mailed or completed at a polling location. OpaVote's ballots are easy to read and voters can vote from any device at any location.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Proportional vs. Majoritarian Representation

When electing a group of people, such as a congress, council, or committee, you need to decide which philosophy of representation that you would like to use. At a very high level, there are two basic options: proportional representation or majoritarian representation.

Proportional Representation

As an example, we'll use a hypothetical election of the U.S. House of Representatives described by Daily Kos and illustrated by the diagram above. The Daily Kos article hypothesizes what the House might look like if U.S. elections used proportional representation. You can see 9 different political parties with different levels of support.

With proportional representation, the percentage of seats held by a party will be approximately equal to their percent support by the voters. In this example, about 6% of voters prefer the Green party, so the Green party gets 26 of the 435 seats or about 6% of the seats.

The most common voting methods that provide proportional representation are the single transferable vote (STV), party list voting, and mixed member proportional representation. STV is the only one that makes sense for non-government elections since the other two are based on political parties. OpaVote provides several variations of STV including Scottish STV, Meek STV, and ERS97 STV.