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).

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Above the Line (ATL) Voting with OpaVote

Some single transferable vote (STV) elections use what is called above-the-line (ATL) voting or a group voting ticket. ATL voting is most common in Australia where STV elections sometimes have a large number of candidates and voters are required to rank a certain number of candidates in order to cast a valid ballot.

To reduce the burden on voters, the voters have an option to allow their favorite party to choose the rankings for them. This post explains how you can implement an ATL online election with OpaVote.

Above, is an example of a ballot that includes an ATL option. The thick black horizontal line there is the "line" of above the line. A voter can vote above the line (ATL) or below the line (BTL) but not both (I suppose some implementations may allow both but I'll skip that to simplify the discussion).

An ATL vote is to select a party of the four parties competing in the election. If a voter picks a party, then the voter's vote is determined by the party's "ticket". Before the election, each party specifies its ticket, which corresponds to a ranking of the candidates competing in the election. Each party presumably ranks it own candidates the highest and followed by candidates of ideologically similar parties.

A BTL vote allows the voter to rank the candidates any way he or she wants.

Friday, September 28, 2018

No Longer Allowing PayPal Payments

For many years, we've allowed customers to make payments to OpaVote using a credit card via Stripe or via PayPal.  Because PayPal is such a difficult company to work with, we've decided to stop accepting payments via PayPal.  Stripe supports payments in more than 135 countries so this should be a good solution for nearly all OpaVote customers.

I suspect some customers will find it a hardship to no longer be able to make payments via PayPal.  If that is the case for you, please contact us, and let us know what payment options (besides PayPal) are available to you, and we'll do our best to make it work.

Thank you for your understanding!

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Non-Anonymous or Recorded Voting Now Available

For most elections, the anonymity of the vote is extremely important, and OpaVote makes sure that no one (not even us!) can figure out how a voter votes. For some elections, however, it is required that the vote not be anonymous or that the votes of voters are recorded so it is known how each voter voted.

Recorded votes are commonly used for elections of elected bodies. For example, for most countries, the votes of elected representatives (e.g., Senators and members of the House of Representatives) are recorded so that the people who voted for them know what they are doing.

Any organization that elects people to represent its members might want to use recorded voting. For example, if you live in a condominium association and elect trustees to represent the condo owners, then you likely want to use recorded voting when the trustees vote on behalf the condo owners (though you would probably use anonymous voting when the condo owners elect the trustees).

Running an election with recorded voting with OpaVote is very simple. There is a new option (only available in expert mode) that allows you to set "Anonymous voting" to "no". When you do this, we record the votes of each voter.

To see the recorded votes after the election is over, download the spreadsheet of all voter statistics from the election console. A new column is added for each contest in the election, and the new columns show the votes for each voter.

The recorded votes only available to the election manager. The manager can, of course, share the voter statistics spreadsheet with others to let them know how the voters voted.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Which elections have the largest turnout?

For an election manager, one of the hardest parts of running an election is getting the voters to actually vote! We have a previous blog post that gives some advice for increasing election turnout, but which elections are the most successful in getting voters to turn out and vote?

Without a doubt, it is high school elections!!! The graph here shows our usage for the last 4 days, and the peak there is a high school election. Many elections have turnout in the 10-25% range, but for high school elections it is usually in the 50-90% range.

Why is that? We posit a couple reasons...

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Elections with Sub-Groups of Voters

Some customers have subgroups of voters in their OpaVote online elections. For example, the subgroups could be based on where voters live (e.g., as in the congressional districts shown here) or the grade level of student voters.

For example, consider a high school election that elects a president for the entire school and a representative for each grade (freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors). Every student can vote for president but only students of a grade vote their representative. There are thus five groups of voters (the whole school and a group for each of the four grades).

I'll present two options for doing this with OpaVote. The first is easier for the manager and the second is easier for the voters.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Trusting your Election Manager

Illustration via Max Fleishman
Because of the importance of some elections, the thought of running elections online can create apprehension. Often, the concern is hackers who might try to manipulate your election (see our recent post on our election security practices).

In this blog post, however, we are going to focus on the election manager (the person who is running the election on behalf of the organization) and the steps that OpaVote takes to limit the ability of an election manager to manipulate an election.

To some extent, you need to trust your election election manager as we'll describe in greater detail below. If you want to eliminate all possibility of an election manager improperly influencing your election, then you can hire OpaVote to run your election for you.

Updated OpaVote pricing

We've recently revised how we do pricing of elections, and we think it will be a welcome change for you.

Previously, the price of your election depended on how long it lasted. The first week was free, and it would cost $10 for each additional two weeks.

Now, all elections can last for up to 12 weeks (from when you create it) at no additional charge.  The pricing is now based solely on the number of voters and candidates.

If you need your election to last more than 12 weeks, please contact us and we can help make that happen for you.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Weighted Votes with Ranked-Choice Voting

For some online elections, it is desired to use weighted votes. In government elections, the vote of each voter counts the same so that each voter has equal influence. In this situation, you could say that each voter has a weight of one. Voters used to government elections may think that weighting some votes more than others is unfair, but there are elections where it is fair and necessary!

Probably the most common example is condominium homeowner association (HOA) elections. For a building with multiple condominium units, the building will often need to make decisions, such as to charge each owner an additional fee to replace the roof. To make these decisions, the HOA will have trustees who are elected by the condo owners to make decisions. The trustees will generally be a subset of the condo owners.

Because the condos in the building have different sizes, each condo owner is assigned a weight corresponding to the size of their condo. For example, the weight of a vote may be the same as the square footage of the condo, and a person with a 2000 sq. ft. condo will have double the voting power of a person with a 1000 sq. ft. condo.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Efficient Manual Entry of Ranked Ballots

Some OpaVote customers hold an election using paper ballots and need to enter the ballots into the OpaVote website. We provide a ballot editor (pictured here) to make it easy to do this, and in this blog post we provide some tips to make this process efficient and prevent errors in ballot entry.

Once you have all of your completed ballots, the first thing you should do is number them. For example, put them in a pile, and write 1 on the top-right corner of the first ballot, 2 on the next one, and so forth. This makes it much easier to verify that the ballots were entered correctly.

Smaller Elections

If you have a relatively small election, one person may create an OpaVote Count and enter all of the ballots using our ballot editor.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

2017 Year in Review

Happy New Year from OpaVote! We are based in the Boston area, which means that winter has arrived and our local yeti is roaming the streets! I don't know if he supports ranked-choice voting, but I'll try and find out.

We'll use this end of the year round up to give you an overview of all the accomplishments over the past year.

New Arrivals in 2017

  • We had our largest election ever with more than 41,000 voters. To be honest, we were a little nervous, but it went off beautifully. Since we run on Google and Sendgrid servers, they were easily able to scale up to handle this larger election.