Every organization has its own unique requirements and bylaws, and the voting process is customized to each situation. However, there are general processes and procedures that apply to most onsite elections:
Plan the Meeting
Start planning several weeks in advance. Learn the venue’s floor plan so you can plan for crowd control, member registration location, and voting booth placement; each detail is important to ensure every member can vote and keeps the election on schedule. Ballots and the voting process should be safeguarded to keep the voting choices secret.
Update Staff Members and Volunteers
Once the meeting plan is determined, all the staff members and any volunteers should be updated with all voting procedures and plans. They should review the voting site preparedness and ensure that speedy rectification of any deficiencies can occur, and proper control systems are implemented to ensure a better process.
Common Voter Questions
Ensure that you have answers to common questions by sharing information on signage, or using greeters. Information to share includes seating instructions, voting process, and other scrutineer duties, ballot inspection, tallying procedures, and how to identify unusual activities or fraudulent voting practices. Expect voter mistakes, too! Depending on the severity of the mistake, you will want to ensure that all of your staff (if applicable) are familiar with the protocols surrounding an error on a ballot, including whether or not a ballot can be re-issued, and whether or not to accept a ballot
Send Meeting Notices
Send annual meeting notices to all the members. ElectionBuddy can send email notices to all the voters and, if required by your bylaws, send paper ballots to all the voters. Make sure all the voters are notified about the election date and time, along with the election process via an e-newsletter or postal notice.
Plan for Absentee and In-Person Voting
On the annual meeting day, any members who have not voted online or by mail can bring in their ballots or can cast an “onsite ballot”, usually determined by your organization’s bylaws or governing articles. Distinguish between members who have voted before the annual meeting and members who are voting at the meeting, so as to prevent members from submitting more than one vote. To ensure a voter submits a ballot only once, create ballots of different size, color, and/or layout. Moreover, ElectionBuddy offers different Integrity levels to restrict voters from submitting multiple ballots.
Voting Booths / Kiosks
Voting booths, also known as voting kiosks, are where voters review ballots and make their voting choices by completing the ballot. The following are some points to keep in mind when setting up a voting booth:
People outside can’t look in and see how other people are voting. Voter privacy is a vital part of election integrity, as the right to vote anonymously is a fundamental component of the democratic process.
It should be placed in such a way that it is easily accessible by all potential voters, which may include persons with disabilities. Provide ample space beside and behind the booth.
Ensure that the booths are set up so that they are well-lit, and have a writing surface positioned at a height that makes it comfortable to write. Chairs are optional, depending on the booth height. if you anticipate a large voter turnout, setting up a “waiting room” with chairs will allow voters waiting to vote a chance to rest while enduring the wait time and provide elderly voters a place to rest.
A voting instructions sheet should be placed in the voting booth to make the voter aware of the voting process. Review, and have others test, the instructions; having voters exit the booth, mid-vote, to ask questions after they have partially completed the ballot impacts voter secrecy. Don’t forget to direct voters on what to do after they have made their voting choices! Signs help; just keep them concise, and simple to follow.
Ensure that the tools for casting the vote (pen, pencil, marker, computer, or tablet) are placed in the voting booth, so that the voters can submit their ballots quickly, and without any issues.
There are many varieties and materials. “Too big” is better, as you want to ensure you can fit all the ballots in the box. The slot should be able to be sealed, so that the box can be secured after voting is completed. If an online voting process is used, the tablet or computer will be on the writing surface or desk
Verify ballot process - identify spoiled ballot criteria. Examples include those that do not include a signature or do not follow other established election protocols, like:
A ballot with no mark or marking more number of candidates than allowed.
A ballot was marked so the voter could be identified. A ballot that does not clearly reflect the choice of the voter.
A ballot is improperly marked (marked outside the circle or using a wrong symbol for marking etc.).
It is vital to know and communicate the procedures in place for any questionable ballots!
Announce the Results
Once the meeting is completed, count all the ballots submitted during the meeting and the ballots submitted online. A certified report with the election results should be generated so your organization can make it official.