We’re all adjusting to a sudden shift in the way we relate, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Organizations are figuring out how to conduct operations in social isolation. We work with several membership-oriented non-profit associations, and we’re helping with the changing circumstances.

Membership-oriented non-profit associations (and many other organizations, of course) regularly host gatherings of their members, and are scrambling to convert events and AGMs to online video format. At AGMs, new officers and directors are normally elected, which will require online voting.

Each association has its bylaws, defining how voting is to be conducted; online voting must be conducted accordingly. Here are some of the requirements to be taken into consideration when setting up an online voting system, in compliance with bylaws.

Limit voting to appropriate participants

In essence, online voting is simple. Most collaboration software suites have a basic survey tool that can be used to tally input from users. Google Forms is one example among many. There are also a number of third party online solutions specifically designed for running elections.

During an organization’s AGM, we need to limit voting to eligible members. For associations who have membership databases integrated with their websites, a built-in voting application can leverage the database to limit voting to members in good standing, and further use the same authentication system to allow only one vote per member.

The voting process

For an AGM, some voting items, such as bylaw amendments and elections, may be published for member consideration in advance. With a built-in voting application, the organization can post the items to be voted on within their website’s secure member area. During the AGM, the website administrator can open individual items for voting, and members will be able to cast votes from their computer or phone. While online voting facilitates running an AGM by video conference, online voting could also be adapted to old-fashioned, in-person AGMs.

It may also be required to present votes on the fly, for example when there are amendments to a proposed vote. The web administrator can facilitate a smoothly run meeting by quickly create a new voting item using the built-in voting application, and post it for immediate voting.

Counting and displaying the votes

Once the website administrator closes the vote, displaying the voting results will be immediate, and visible to all participants. Depending on requirements, votes can either show or hide the voting details, including who voted for which option, to replicate a show-of-hands type vote. Voting history is easily archived within the membership database.

Anonymous voting

In some votes, it may be important to protect the anonymity of voters, preventing anyone from determining what an individual voter voted for. In this case, the voting application can use encryption to decouple the record of who voted from the record of vote counts. As with all security, we need to make informed decisions balancing the level of security required to provide reasonable protection, against the risk of a security breach.

Proxy voting

While it may be more convenient to attend an online AGM from home than to travel to a physical meeting, there may still be a need to allow proxy voting, whereby eligible voters may assign their votes to other eligible voters. With a built-in voting application integrated with the organization’s member database, proxy voting is possible.

Making small contribution where we can

We are very aware that front line workers in the health care and essential service sectors are making heroic efforts to get through the pandemic crisis. Our contributions are very modest, but we do want to contribute as we can to keep society running smoothly.