Friday, March 24, 2017

Why we love the Borda count

"My scheme is intended only for honest men."
The Borda count is a great voting system that doesn't get enough attention. It is really easy to understand and is very useful for certain types of elections. It does, however, have a serious flaw that you need to be aware of before using it. More on that later.

A quick bit of history. The man credited with inventing the Borda count is Jean-Charles de Borda. He invented a lot of things and has a crater on the moon named after him.

How the Borda count works

The Borda count is really simple. Suppose 5 candidates are running in the election. The voters rank the candidates, and each candidate gets 4 points for every first choice, 3 points for every second choice, 2 points for every third choice, 1 point for every fourth choice, and no points for last choices. You count up the points, and the person with the most points wins.

Sometimes you will see other point systems. E.g., 5 points for a first choice and 1 point for a last choice. Sometimes it is reversed and you get 1 point for a first choice, 5 points for a last choice vote, and the person with the fewest points wins. You get the same winner either way so it doesn't matter.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Why use ranked choice voting over Condorcet voting

This is a follow up article to my previous article explaining why I prefer ranked choice voting over approval voting. The task here is to explain why I prefer ranked choice voting (RCV) over Condorcet for most elections.

To not keep you in suspense, I'll tell you up front. It is MUCH harder for voters to understand how Condorcet ballots are counted than to understand how RCV ballots are counted. In my view, it is very important for voters to understand the counting process. For this reason, I recommend that most organizations use RCV and not Condorcet.

With both RCV and Condorcet, voters cast the same exact ranked ballot. The difference is how the ballots are counted to determine the winner, and I'll explain this next.

Counting RCV Ballots

With RCV, the ballots are counted in rounds, and here is an example of RCV results. For the first round, each ballot is allocated to its first choice. For each subsequent round, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and the ballots of the last-place candidate are transferred to the next choices on the ballots. The counting is complete when a candidate has a majority or only two candidates remain.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Why You Should Run Your Election Online

Whether it's to decide the flavor of ice cream to serve at the church social or decisions of international import, election time is always exciting! Seeing people line up for the polls or eagerly awaiting ballots by mail, counting the votes and finally announcing the winners. But elections are also nerve-wracking for those who run them. Keeping track of the ballots, ensuring voters have access to information, and keeping returned ballots safe until counting makes voting day a long one for election staff. If your organization has a small staff, OpaVote's voting software make voting day a breeze while losing none of the excitement.

We offer multiple voting methods, so that voters can rank their options, or choose more than one option to get the most information about your voter's preferences. We will send your voters a link to an online ballot and you have the option of submitting paper ballots into the count, making voting accessible to all voters. Our voting software is highly secure, preventing tampering and accidental duplicate votes. The emails we collect for your voters are discarded as soon as you close the election. We have the deepest respect for the privacy of your voters.

Some voting software companies offer the same service we do, but at a much higher cost. If you're running a small, fast poll or election, we offer a free package with the same quality of service as our packages designed for thousands of voters. For the price of having pizza delivered, your organization can cut back on the amount of paper and printing you need and have a smooth, secure voting process.

If you're a regular voter, you see how much paper and time is used in getting your vote. Candidates sometimes send out flyers months ahead of elections, or go from city to city offering the same talking points to different people, and spend millions of dollars. But wouldn't it be much easier if you could sit down, peruse the relevant materials and vote at your leisure? This is the convenience you can offer voters with OpaVote's voting software.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Ranking Electoral Reforms

Electoral reform is near and dear to my heart, and I started OpaVote to help promote betting voting methods, such as instant runoff voting and the single transferable vote.  There are many other important electoral reforms, and some are more important than better voting methods.

Below I present a U.S.-focused list of electoral reforms roughly in order of the importance that I place on them.  Others will certainly have strong disagreements, and I'd love to hear from you.  I'll update this post over time with additional explanations for the other electoral reforms.

Top-two primary

The 2016 election for U.S. President is a shining example of the problems with conventional primaries (likely producing the most disliked major-party candidates ever).  Although voters are increasingly identifying themselves as independents rather than being affiliated with a political party, the Democratic and Republican parties hold enormous control over the electoral process.

For most elections, the Democratic part has a primary to elect its candidate, the Republican party has a primary to elect its candidate, and later an election is held to decide between the Democrat and the Republican (and sometimes third party or independent candidates).

Conventional primaries produce bad election outcomes because (i) they elect partisan candidates rather than moderate candidates, (ii) the parties have too much control (e.g., "super" delegates), and (iii) third-party or independent candidates are essentially shut out of the electoral process.

Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 Year in Review

OpaVote in May 2016
It has been another great year at OpaVote, and we have been working hard to continue to make it work better for you and to introduce new features.

We hired a web designer to completely redesign the home page.  We love the new design and think it is much better than the old design that you can see here.

Below are list some of the more significant improvements that we introduced over the past year.  Please let us know what you would like to see in 2017!

New Features in 2016

In 2016 we had more than 250 code checkins and 14 blog posts.  Here is a summary of the highlights of our improvements to OpaVote over the last year:
  1. Tracking of voter activity in your election.  OpaVote shows you a graph with the number of email opens, the number of voting page visits, and the number of votes cast on an hourly basis.
  2. Detailed reporting of email delivery.  OpaVote tells you when emails have been delivered to individual voters.  If emails bounce, OpaVote tells you why so you can try to fix it!

Why Switch to Online Voting?

As people become increasingly less willing to go somewhere to vote, companies and organizations are looking for the right online voting tool to increase voter turnout. From cost to convenience, there are a number of reasons to switch to online voting.


If you think that an online voting tool is cost prohibitive, then you will probably be surprised that it is not only less costly both for the tool and for your staff’s time. OpaVote gives you a relatively inexpensive but secure way of getting more people to participate in the voting process.


One of the major benefits of online voting is that you can ensure that the right people receive their ballots. They receive an email with a link that provides the necessary information. Security is not a concern as voting pages are encrypted. The encryption helps to make people feel that their vote is safe from tampering.

Easy User Interface

With a user interface that is easier to use than the traditional lever, you don’t have to worry that a person will cast their ballot other than how they intended.  The system displays their choices as a confirmation before their ballot is recorded - if there's a correction needed, the voter can simply go back!


If you need to increase voter turnout, there is no better way than OpaVote as your online voting tool. Your voters will have a way to vote from anywhere, at any time!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Ensuring Election Integrity

At OpaVote, we want both election managers and voters to have confidence in the integrity of the election outcome.  There are two main ways that election integrity could be compromised:

  • The election manager could manipulate the election.
  • Hackers could manipulate the election.
We'll address both of these in this blog post.

Election Manager

An election manger at OpaVote is responsible for all aspects of running the election.  The manger needs to provide the information about the election, candidates, voter lists, etc.  Although you hopefully trust your election manager, we do a few things at OpaVote to limit what a corrupt election manager could do.