Before working with Survey & Ballot Systems (SBS), Adams Electric Cooperative (Adams) handled voting internally, which didn’t give members many options for casting a ballot. Before signing with SBS, the co-op’s bylaws didn’t allow for electronic voting, so every member would receive a mailed ballot but also had the option to vote in person at the co-op’s annual meeting. An independent committee of members would count the returned ballots by hand and certify the results.
Without a third-party to guarantee results, the worry was that a very close election could cast doubt on an internal election process and lead to costly recounts or even a loss of trust among voters, according to Duane Kanagy, communications manager at Adams. Along with improved bylaws allowing for online voting, this desire for transparency and maintaining member trust was a driving factor for a change in the election process at Adams Electric Cooperative.
Adams has undergone a major expansion of voting options for members since partnering with SBS. Since 2010, the co-op and SBS implemented a full-hybrid election, adding online voting while continuing to mail ballots to members and allowing for voting at the annual meeting. This provides members with a variety of ways to vote, so they can choose the one most convenient to them.
A new feature added in 2017 was the ability for members to vote directly through a single sign-on within the co-op’s NISC® SmartHub® portal. Members saw a notice of the open election when they logged in to pay their bills or check their usage, and they were able to vote directly from SmartHub without any additional logins or passwords to remember.
In addition to gaining a more secure and accurate election system, Adams has found value in additional SBS services. Adams has utilized reminder emails with embedded links, QR codes to provide easy navigation to the voting webpage, and video bios of candidates. These increase awareness of the ability to vote, as well as aiding members in learning more about who is running for open positions.
These changes haven’t been lost on members. A brief survey of voters after they cast their ballots has shown that members appreciate the easier voting process and more options to vote. After all, “voting is a right for our members,” says Kami Noel, Adams communications coordinator. “Making it easier and more accessible is something Adams has always supported as much as possible.”