Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Elections where a winning candidate withdraws

Online elections don't always go according to plan... For example, during an election, it is possible that a candidate may decide that she is no longer able or no longer willing to assume the duties of the position being elected. We describe this as a candidate "withdrawing" from the election. In this post, we explain how  to handle withdrawn candidates with OpaVote.

Removing a Candidate and Recounting Votes

Let's say that you are the manager of an OpaVote Election. Voting is complete and you have election results. Before you announce the results you learn that one of the winners has withdrawn. OpaVote allows you to remove the withdrawn candidate and recount the votes.

The process works as follows:

  1. Download the ballots from the Election. We have a "Download Ballots" button on the results page.
  2. Create an OpaVote Count. This is one the three options from our management console.
  3. Upload the ballots you just downloaded into the OpaVote Count with the "Upload Ballots" button.
  4. Use the "Withdraw Candidates" button to remove the withdrawn candidate (you can also withdraw more than one if you need to).
  5. Count the ballots using your preferred counting method.
We will then count the ballots as if the withdrawn candidate had not been on the ballots at all.  For example, if the withdrawn candidate was ranked first on a ballot, that ranking will be removed, and the second-ranked candidate will become the first-ranked candidate.

Note that you may need to pay an additional fee for the Count. Though if you do, it is often significantly less than the cost of the Election since the fee is based on the number of votes received and not the total number of voters.

Rerun the Election?

Another thing to consider is whether you should rerun the entire election. For example, suppose there were three candidates competing for a position, you ran the election using plurality or checkbox voting, and the winner withdraws from the election.

You could just elect the person who came in second, but this does not seem fair because you are not taking into account the votes of everyone who voted for the withdrawn candidate. The best option in this situation is to rerun the election.

With ranked-choice voting, you probably do not need to rerun the election, because everyone who voted for the withdrawn candidate will have their votes counted for their second choices.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Weighted code voters now available

At OpaVote online voting, we already had code voters and weighted voters, but now we have weighted code voters! This feature will be especially useful for HOA and condo elections where a voter's weight corresponds to the size of his or her share of the common condominium expenses.

I'll first review code voters and weighted voters, and I'll then explain how to put the two together.

Code Voters

OpaVote currently has two types of voters: email voters and code voters. For email voters, the election manager uploads a list of email addresses, and OpaVote sends each voter an email with a special voting link to allow that person to vote.

Code voters work differently. The election manager inputs only the number of code voters. OpaVote then provides the election manager with a list of secret voting codes. It is the job of the election manager to distribute the codes to the voters. The code voters then go to the voting page and enter their code so that they can access their ballot.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Elections with a Large Number of Candidates

Some online elections at OpaVote have a very large number of candidates. We'll sometimes see a single contest with hundreds of candidates or many contests where each contest has a large number of candidates.

An OpaVote manager recently asked me the best way to run an election with a large number of candidates. The best answer is don't run an election with a large number of candidates! In some instances, it may be unavoidable, but as an election manager, you should work hard to have a reasonable number of candidates.

In this blog post, we explain (1) why should not have a large number of candidates and (2) if you do, how to improve the process.

Don't Run Elections with a Large Number of Candidates

As an election manager, by asking your voters to vote in an election, you are asking each of your voters to do a favor for you. Your voters are busy people, and they have lots of things going on in their lives. They also get overwhelmed with emails. You are lucky if they open the voting email, never mind clicking a link in the email and then reviewing a list of candidates to cast a vote.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Why I'm against lowering the voting age to less than 18

It is quite rare for me to be against any kind of voting reform. After all, I started OpaVote for the primary purpose of promoting ranked-choice voting. But when it comes to the supposed reform of lowering the voting age from the current standard of age 18 to something lower, I am dead set against it.

Here is my reasoning in a nutshell: I don't see lowering the voting age as having any significant impact in improving voter turnout. To the extent that people or organizations advocate for lowering the voting age, they are distracting us from real reforms that could make a difference.

Voting Reforms that Could Make a Difference

I'll limit myself to voting reforms that are focused on improving voter turnout since that seems to be the objective of advocates of lowering the voting age.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Largest Election Ever with 57,000 Voters

Our largest election ever was completed yesterday with a total of 57,000 voters. Although we've carefully designed our online voting platform to scale to handle elections of any size, we must admit that we do get a little nervous when a customer has an election that goes where no election has gone before!

One amazing aspect of modern cloud computing is the ability to quickly scale the number of servers running your website behind the scenes. For typical daily usage of OpaVote, we have a relatively small number of servers, but when a large election starts, the number of servers will increase quickly to handle the sudden increase in traffic. When the traffic slows down, the number of servers will decrease so that we are not paying for computing power that we don't need.

The graph here shows the change in the number of servers when the election with 57,000 voters started. We are happy to report that the election with 57,000 voters went off flawlessly.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Easier payments with OpaVote

A few months ago, we stopped PayPal support to make it easier to make payments to OpaVote for your online elections. We are happy to now announce those improvements!

We process our payments using a company called Stripe, which provides amazing services and is one of those unicorn companies that you hear about.

When you provide your credit card number at OpaVote, we never see it. It goes directly from your browser to Stripe, and then Stripe processes it for us. Processing credit card numbers is serious business so we let Stripe handle that for us.

Saving of Credit Card Info

You can now save your credit card info so that you don't need to enter it for each payment. For those of you running many elections, this will save you the trouble of having to repeatedly enter your credit card info.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Customer Spotlight: Impact 100 uses OpaVote to award grants to nonprofits.

In this blog post, we highlight the great work of Impact 100 of Northwest Florida, and describe how they used OpaVote to allow voting at their meeting both on smart phones and using election kiosks.

The mission of IMPACT 100 of Northwest Florida is to financially support nonprofit organizations in Northwest Florida by empowering women as philanthropists and leaders, by bridging the geographic areas of the region, and by leveraging the talents of women to be a positive force for good in our communities.

IMPACT 100 is an amazing group. The group has 514 women as members and each member contributes $1000 per year. All of the money goes to supporting nonprofits so the group was able to make awards totaling $514,000! IMPACT 100 used OpaVote to select five nonprofits as award winners from nine candidate organizations. The worthy winners this year were Sinfonia (music education for schools), Youth Village (after-school programs for children), One Hopeful Place (homeless shelters), Oasis (AIDS support), and Gulfarium (rehabilitation of rescued sea turtles).