Sunday, March 22, 2020

Running Elections through Zoom

With the current unfortunate situation, most in-person meetings need to be cancelled. Organizations are still meeting up, but using services like Zoom to conduct their meetings.

Where you previously held elections at an in-person meeting, you now need to figure out how to conduct your elections during a Zoom meeting (or Hangouts, Slack, Skype, etc.).

In this blog post, we explain how you can easily run an online election through Zoom. Even better, you can easily run many elections during a single Zoom meeting.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Three Most Common Voter Requests and How to Deal with Them

For an election manager, running an online election, especially one with a lot of voters, can be a lot of work! In this blog post, we address the three most common voter requests, and how to handle them with OpaVote.

Voter did not receive a voting email

A voter contacts you and says they didn't receive a voter email. In many (I suspect most) instances, the voter did receive the email but can't find it or accidentally deleted it. For example, voter emails to gmail, Yahoo, and the like should always be delivered.

Regardless, the best thing to do is to send them another voting email! This is easy to do from the management console:

  • click the link that looks like this: 100 email voters,
  • on the following page, click the email address of the voter, and then
  • click the "Send Reminder" button.
You can do this as many times as you need to.

If the voter still hasn't received the voting email, then you have two more options. First, disable the voter's email address from the same page that you used to send a reminder email. Then, you can do one of the following:
  • get another email address from the voter and add it to the election, or
  • create a code voter (see here) and send the secret code to the voter along with the code voting link (looks like this:
In some instances, it is possible that none of your voters received the voting email! This can happen
where all of your voters have an email with the same organization (e.g., a school or a company), and the organization has blocked emails from OpaVote. Because OpaVote sends many voting emails to the organization in a short period of time, the voting emails may be classified as spam and blocked.

When this happens, the best thing to do is to contact your IT department and ask them to whitelist emails from Your IT department may ask you to provide further information (such as our IP addresses). If this happens, just contact us, and we will provide whatever information is needed.

OpaVote says voter has voted but voter says otherwise

Each voting link can be used to vote only once. The voting link can be clicked on as many times as a voter likes, but once a vote has been cast with the voting link, OpaVote will respond with a message that the voter has already voted.

Sometimes a voter will get this message and insist that they haven't yet voting. There are two possible reasons for this: (i) the voter actually voted and forgot, or (ii) the voter forwarded their voting email to someone else and someone else voted with the voting link.

When this happens, you have two options:

  • Tell the voter "sorry" but they cannot vote since the voting link has been used.
  • Send another voting link to the voter (e.g., get another email address or create a code voter) to allow the voter to vote. Note that for anonymous elections (i.e., most elections) you cannot remove the vote from the voter's original voting link.

OpaVote voting page is not working

OpaVote voting pages work on any device (e.g., phones, tablets, computers, etc.) and any commonly used browser. OpaVote has large numbers of voters casting votes every day, and our voting pages work fine for just about all of them!

Occasionally, a voter will complain that the voting page is not working for them. E.g., something on the page is cut off or the "Vote" button doesn't work. This is caused by some unusual or buggy software that the voter has installed. We can't help diagnose such problems, but there are few easy things the voter can do:

  • vote from a different device (e.g., computer instead of phone),
  • vote with a different browser (e.g., Chrome instead of Safari),
  • vote using an incognito mode of the browser, or
  • disable all browser extensions before voting.

We hope you find this information helpful, and we wish you successful elections!

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Duration of elections and polls now resets when you start voting

For our online elections and polls, we have an election duration that indicates how long your election is available on the OpaVote website. On our management console, we present an expiration date so that you know exactly when your election is no longer available.

We've never been completely happy with how we have implemented these durations, and we are tweaking it a bit to hopefully make it better and less confusing for our customers. Here is a table that summarizes the changes:

Free Duration21
Paid Duration1210
Change on
Voting Start
NoneDuration resets to start
of election or poll

We'll explain this in more detail. Free duration is for people who have never made a payment to OpaVote, and paid duration is for people who have made at least one payment. By making a single payment of $10, all of your elections qualify for paid duration. Further, the $10 you paid can be applied to increase the limits on an election. Pretty good deal for $10.

The key change is that durations now reset when you start voting.

Before, your election would last 12 weeks, but if you started voting 11 weeks after creating your election, you would only have 1 week left. Some of our customers found this confusing and frustrating.

Now, your election can last 10 weeks, but if you start voting after 9 weeks, you now have 10 more weeks to finish your election!

Although we've slightly decreased the durations, we hope that resetting the duration when you start voting more than makes up for it.

If you need your election duration to last longer than what we've described above, then the next step is to extend your election by a year, and we charge another $50 for this per election. For now, if you need this extra duration, send us an email and we'll take care of it. In the near future, we'll have buttons on the management console to allow you to do this your self.

These changes are not retroactive so any elections that existed before today won't have their durations change. One exception is that if you created an election before today and now start voting, then your election will be under the new duration rules after you start voting (10 weeks from voting start). The expiration date on the console will always be accurate. If this causes a problem for you, let us know and we'll fix it.

All of the above applies to both our Elections and Polls. Since Counts don't have a voting stage, the duration will be based on the creation of the Count and won't ever reset.

We hope you like this change, and please feel free to provide us feedback on this change or about any other aspects of our services.

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Why we don't support equal rankings in RCV elections

OpaVote specializes in online elections with ranked-choice voting. With ranked-choice voting, you can select your first choice, your second choice, and so forth.

You could imagine that a voter might want to give two candidates the same ranking. For example, using the ballot example here, a voter might want to rank both Wonder Woman and Superman first and rank Black Panther second.

Our user interface does not allow voters to specify equal rankings like this. We occasionally get asked to allow equal rankings in OpaVote, and in this blog post we explain why we won't do so. The fundamental reason is a simple cost-benefit tradeoff.

Benefits of Equal Rankings

The benefit of allowing equal rankings is that the voter has increased ability to express his or her preferences about the candidates.

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.