Hot Seat: Election Q&A
“How do you ensure election security?”
Member votes and personal data are of the utmost importance and must be protected at every step of the election process. Here’s how to enhance the security of your voting process in three easy steps.
When offering online voting to your members, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is one standard encryption technology used by most providers to protect your data, and there are ways to test the strength of this security. Try this SSL tool on an election website login page to quickly and easily understand your vendor’s security with a simple letter grade. When offering online voting to your members, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) is one standard encryption technology used by most providers to protect your data, and there are ways to test the strength of this security. Try this
SBS utilizes Transport Layer Security (TLS) encryption. It’s another step up from SSL and is the same encryption technique used by the nation’s top banks and financial institutions.
Documentation throughout the process.
Not all data is digital. Having detailed processes with checks, balances and audit trails protect the integrity and accuracy of all final and certified results. With paper ballots it’s crucial to have policies and procedures that include check-ins, daily or delivered counts and locked vaults for storing documents with access only by credentialed staff.
SBS can point to our SOC 2® compliance, and you should look for this in all election vendors. SOC 2 was developed by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants to provide standardized best practices for service organizations like election providers. It’s a technical audit that ensures strict policies and procedures for security, integrity and confidentiality of all voting data.
A workaround you may hear from “bargain providers” is that the vendors they use are SOC 2 compliant, but that doesn’t mean they themselves meet those same standards. If you feel like a vendor is dodging this answer, it could be a red flag for your organization.
Monitoring and vulnerability testing.
Election websites require constant assessment of potential vulnerabilities, 24/7 monitoring and response capabilities ensure that your data is secured and managed by professionals. SBS’ voting websites employ passive and active network and security monitoring services to detect and prevent unauthorized access. Data is stored in a secure data center with controlled, monitored access 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, 365 days per year.
Comprehensive election security is necessary to provide you with an election process that can hold up under the closest scrutiny. With SBS overseeing both physical and digital elements of your election, you can be confident you are providing your members a safe and secure voting process.
How can we bring transparency and simplicity to our elections?
Transparency is vital as a way to build and maintain your members’ trust in the election process. The best way to maintain full transparency while also simplifying things for your staff is by removing your organization from the election as much as possible. This eliminates any questions of interference or manipulation, and is an easy way to let your members know the results are unbiased and accurate.
The best way to remove your involvement is by bringing in a third-party election expert. They will know the strategies to use in order to ensure a successful and smoothly run process, while easing any concerns members could have. It also takes the burden of administering an often-complicated process off your staff. Without the need to handle mailing, tabulation, security and more, your organization’s employees can focus on other important business matters.
While there are many other steps you can include to increase transparency and simplicity for voters, it really all starts with bringing in the right third-party vendor. For details on any other ways to accomplish these goals, don’t hesitate to reach out for information on Nominations, Single Sign-On, QR Codes, Embedded Login Links and more.
Why do elections cost so much?
Free and budget options certainly sound appealing to organizations looking to use their funds efficiently, but focusing too much on cutting out all costs can wind up hurting both your budget and members’ trust in the long run.
When it comes to elections, you get what you pay for. The security that goes into hosting an election is a critical factor in determining the overall cost. In all likelihood, budget and free options are hosted in a less secure online environment. This could leave the election exposed to intrusions and hacks, which damages your governance process and severely reduces members’ trust in you.
In addition to the risk of intrusions, it’s essential to know that members have only voted once – if not, all results could be called into question. Using a survey site without unique logins for each member, one of two problems can arise:
- Members can vote multiple times.
- Their votes won’t be anonymous.
Both are major issues, so be sure to have an election system in place that can fully ensure anonymous ballots and “one member, one vote.”
With an election platform built by experts, you will have an experienced third-party to answer any voting questions or concerns. It is invaluable to be able to point to an unbiased third-party to protect your organization from any accusations of bias or impropriety. This also can protect you from costly liability – if anything were to go wrong in your election and you don’t have an auditable unbiased process to point to, you could be held responsible and even open your organization up to legal action.
Don’t let short-term cost savings sway you toward an option that is less secure, less reliable and not built specifically for elections. Taking shortcuts here can deny your members the true voting experience they deserve and want, so when deciding on your next election remember that your members deserve the best.
Will adding new voting methods change the makeup of our board?
This is a very common question, as often the board of directors is the body that approves changes to the election process. We’ve heard many cases where a board is hesitant to make a change to voting out of concern they may get voted out. While every election is different, we’ve found that isn’t the case in most elections with new methods.
When new election methods are introduced, the vast majority of the time, incumbents are re-elected (at essentially the same rate they were with previous methods). So, if the results are often the same, why make the switch to newer methods? The answer, as it is for most election questions, is that enabling all members to vote in a convenient way is a key to good governance. This way, you know your election is representative of all members and nobody is being left out from having their voice heard.
How long should the nomination process be?
Depending on your bylaws, the nomination process often varies between organizations. However, we’ve seen some common trends across all markets when it comes to how long it should take to gather applications from qualified candidates.
A vital first step in the process is to let your members know when you’ll start accepting nomination applications. Actively promote your nomination process and the qualifications you’re seeking at least six weeks’ prior to accepting applications. This provides members the opportunity to carefully consider their nomination and gather all the necessary information.
Once the nomination period officially opens, it’s best to give candidates between 30-45 days to complete their application. This amount of time could vary depending on your bylaws. The collection of petition signatures is often required for potential candidates. Generally, this takes place during application process, but organizations should allow a minimum of 10-14 days if candidates must collect signatures after the nomination period has ended.
Announce the slate of candidates who will appear on the ballot to your membership within 1-2 weeks of the nomination period ending. This is the perfect opportunity to start your election promotion strategy and inform members about the upcoming candidates. Whether it’s via web, mail or social media, there is no wrong way to promote the election.
How common is it to include more than a short bio about the candidates?
This is a trend that is growing in popularity, and definitely something worth considering. The more detail your candidates can provide about themselves, the more informed your voters will be. Remember, you can’t count on your members knowing all the candidates on a personal level, so the biography might be their only chance to learn about potential board members. This is especially true in larger organizations with memberships spread across the country and the world.
Video biographies are a great idea, and a way for candidates to share important information about themselves and highlight their personalities. Implementing video into your candidate bios carries the additional benefit of having shareable content related to the election, which can get members talking and greatly increase the awareness of a voting event.
Cole Caldwell has been a Marketing Specialist at SBS since 2022. He holds a B.S. in Entrepreneurship from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Cole oversees company communications, branding, and product launches, making www.surveyandballotsystems.com the go-to source for governance best practices. He’s known for hosting educational webinars, presenting at national trade events, and publishing guides to boost voter engagement.