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:

BeforeNow
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.

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.