Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Implementing Waterfall Elections with OpaVote

Some OpaVote customers want to implement waterfall elections, and in this post, I explain how you can do this with OpaVote. Full disclosure, I just made up the name "waterfall election," but it needed a name I kinda like it.

In a waterfall election, you are electing multiple positions, say president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer. The key difference from regular elections is that people can run for more than one position. A person may want to be president, but if he doesn't win that election, then he might want to be vice president.

There are two main types of water fall elections, and I'll explain each below. You can use any of OpaVote's counting methods to do a waterfall election, but it works best when voters can rank all of the candidates, such as ranked-choice voting.

Monday, July 3, 2017

How to break free from the two-party system

Image of an American flag on cracked pavement.
The U.S. political system is broken. Voters all over the spectrum agree. The brands of both major parties are in the toilet. Trump speaks for himself. Hillary is widely disliked even by members of her own party and lost to the most incompetent and embarrassing candidate for President in history (oops, I guess I just spoke for Trump).

Why is the brand of our only two viable parties in the toilet? Because they don't represent most of us.

The 2016 Presidential election clearly showed that the two parties do not truly represent us. Democratic voters were divisively split between the Bernie camp and the Hillary camp. Republican voters were so fractured that it is hard to identify all the factions, but we have establishment Republicans, Trump supporters, libertarians, evangelicals, and whatever it is that Ted Cruz represents (people that no one likes?).

Sunday, June 25, 2017

OpaVote now has Guaranteed Email Delivery

Image of a blindfolded archer illustrating the difficulties of 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.

Screenshot showing how to break ties with OpaVote.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Elections in español, français, and português!

Flag of Argentina Flag of Brazil Flag of France Flag of Mexico 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!!!

XKCD comic about Arrow's Theorem.
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

Image of ballot box.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.