Monday, December 26, 2016

2016 Year in Review

Screenshot of OpaVote website as of May 2016.
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, condo associations and HOAs, high schoolsuniversities and colleges, and nonprofits 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

Button with the text Election Integrity!
At OpaVote, we want both election managers and voters to have confidence in the integrity of the election outcome.  Election integrity is important for all types of elections, such as condo or HOA electionshigh school elections, university or college elections, or nonprofit elections.

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.  

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Plain English Explanation of Scottish STV

Flag of Scotland.
Scottish STV is a great method to use for electing a group of people. To help you and your voters understand how it works, we give a "plain English" explanation of how votes are counted with Scottish STV.

If you'd like to see additional details, you are welcome to review the statute passed by Scotland.

At a high level, the vote count takes place in rounds.  For the first round, you count the first place votes.  For subsequent rounds, you will either (1) transfer surplus votes from a candidate or (2) eliminate a candidate.  We'll assume that you've read our STV overview and understand what surplus votes are.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Ranked-Choice Voting Results in San Francisco

Screenshot of a bar chart of 1 round of ranked-choice voting results.
San Francisco is in the process of counting the ranked-choice voting ballots for its city elections.  To make it easier to visualize the results, we have also processed the ballots with OpaVote and are sharing our results.  You can see an example bar chart here, and click the links below for full results.

San Francisco is amazing in that they publish all of the ballot data.  You can download it yourself here.  We downloaded the ballot data, converted it into the BLT format used by OpaVote, counted the ballots, and you can see our results here:

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Increase Voter Turnout With Online Elections

Whether it's a condo or HOA election, a high school election, a university or college election, or a nonprofit election, improving voter turnout is a central concern. High voter participation makes for better representation and greater civic engagement. Establishing more voting locations is a traditional method of making voting easier, but what if you could put a ballot box in every voter's pocket?

OpaVote's online voting tool makes that possible. Online voting means no printing (and possibly misprinting) paper ballots. It means voter choices are clear, with no attempts to read half-erased selections. Online ballots are secure and private, and OpaVote offers multiple voting formats that allow voters to rank options, select single or multiple options, and you can add links to the ballot, a crucial detail in elections with ballot questions.

OpaVote offers the online voting tool of the future with prices for the present. OpaVote offers the same security and flexibility as its competitors at a fraction of the cost. You can quickly poll a committee for free, or have as many as 10,000 voters for an election cycle lasting more than a year for less than it costs to print and send paper ballots. You can do more than boost voter turnout with OpaVote. You can give your organization the tools it needs to connect with the people you value the most.

For more information, visit!

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Election Transparency and Free Recounts for Voters

Image of transparent ballot box to illustrate election transparency. At OpaVote, we want voters to have confidence in the outcome of the election. Especially for hotly contested elections, there may be allegations of fraud or other bad acts to improperly influence the election.

The ability of voters to verify that the election was conducted properly can be referred to as election transparency.  The two main questions in election transparency are:
  1. Were the ballots collected correctly (e.g., were ballots modified or discarded)?
  2. Were the ballot counted correctly?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Why use ranked-choice voting over approval voting

Example of a ranked-choice voting ballot.
Voting is not an easy task for a voter.  I don't mean taking time off work, getting to the polls, and waiting in line, etc.  I mean, when you are standing there in the ballot box, you have to decide what vote you want to cast given the options presented to you.  For example, a Jill Stein supporter may be torn between supporting her favorite candidate and voting for a candidate who has a better chance of winning the election.  I'll refer to this as the cognitive burden of expressing your vote.

In this post, I'll address the cognitive burden of three different types of voting:
  1. Plurality voting (i.e., selecting one candidate)
  2. Approval Voting
  3. Ranked-choice voting
OpaVote supports all three of these voting methods if you want to try them out yourself.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Organizations Promoting Better Voting Methods

OpaVote is a huge proponent of using better voting methods.  The point of voting is to represent the will of the voters, but the most commonly used voting method (plurality voting) often doesn't do that well.

Especially with online voting, it so easy to implement better voting methods, such as instant runoff voting, single transferable vote, Condorcet, or approval voting.  Many organizations support these kinds of voting reforms, and I'll keep an up to date list in this blog post.  Let me know if I missed a good organization.



United Kingdom

United States

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Guest Post: Rethinking STV Fundamentals

This is a guest post from Kevin Baas.  Kevin is a computer programmer from Milwaukee and he has been thinking deeply about the right way to implement STV elections.  His conclusions sharply disagree with long-standing practices for STV elections so it makes for a very interesting read!

I am still unsure if I personally agree with Kevin's conclusions, but his approach is very novel and worth sharing with others.  Kevin's post is very technical so put on your thinking caps and get ready to dive in.

Rethinking STV Fundamentals

Three errors have plagued the counting of ranked choice ballots for over a century, and here’s how to fix them.

 While learning about how ranked choice ballots are traditionally counted, I discovered three critical flaws in the way everyone does it -- indeed, the way everyone has been doing it for over a century. I would like to share with you how I discovered these flaws and how to fix them. In the end I will outline a new and complete method for counting ranked choice ballots that contains none of these flaws, and consequently produces fairer results than any other system. (With the possible exception of CPO-STV, which it might be tied with.) In addition to explaining the reasoning for these changes, I will provide evidence to support my (admittedly bold) claim that the results are more fair.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Monitoring Email Delivery

Screenshot showing an example of reporting statistics of email delivery.
Many OpaVote elections depend on the delivery of voting emails to voters. Delivering large quantities of email is a tricky business because, as you all know, emails are unfortunately abused by spammers.

As an election manager, it is very important for you to know the status of email delivery for your election. OpaVote now makes it very easy to do this!

Above, is a portion of the management console for an election that shows email delivery status.  For this election, there are 2782 email voters.  Each email sent to a voter can be in one of four states: pending, in transit, rejected, or delivered.  We'll explain each of these.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Combining Online Votes with Paper Votes

Screenshot of form for entering ballot data.
Some of our customers have a mixed election where most voters vote online via a link in a voting email but some voters vote via a postal ballot.  When you have such an election, you need to combine the online votes with the postal votes and then count the combined votes.  In this post, we explain how you can do that with OpaVote.  We provide two options, and you can pick which works best for you.

Election then Count

OpaVote provides three types of items: (1) an Election, (2) a Poll, and (3) a Count.  With this method, you will create an OpaVote Election for your online votes, and then create an OpaVote Count to combine the online ballots with the postal ballots (you won't use a Poll).

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Tracking Voter Activity

An example of a voter activity graph provided by OpaVote that shows a count of email opens, visits, and votes over time.
We are excited to announce a new feature in OpaVote to help managers understand what their voters are doing!
One of the hardest parts of running an election is getting voters to vote.  For many OpaVote elections, voter turnout is only 10-25%.  If you want to improve that turnout it is helpful to know what your voters are doing.

OpaVote is now tracking two new statistics of voters: (1) whether they opened the voting email, and (2) whether they visited the voting page.  We track these in a couple different ways:

Monday, February 15, 2016

Best Methods for Electing a Group of People

In our previous post, we provided our recommendations for the best voting methods to use when electing a single person.  In this follow-up post, we give our recommendations for electing a group of people.

Proportional or Majoritarian Representation?

The first thing to decide is whether you want proportional representation or majoritarian representation.  Proportional representation means, in a nutshell, that the demographics of the elected group should be similar to the demographics of the voters.  For example, under proportional representation, 50% of elected bodies would be women and parties and ethnic minorities would be represented according to their support among voters.