How Long Should Elections Last?

March 5th, 2014 by David Simms

Categorized as: Election Tips, Increase Voter Turnout

How Long Should Elections Last

The United States of America is capable of electing a new President in less than twenty-four hours. Why then should it take upwards of four weeks to elect the President of a private organization? The answer is, it shouldn’t, and conducting an election with a four-week period for voting is simply a holdover from the antiquated paper-based process once used for conducting private elections. When it was necessary for paper ballots to be mailed, filled out, returned and tabulated, it was understandable that it could take a period of up to a month—particularly if some of the voters were oversees.

But today, with the ability to conduct elections across the world wide web, the voting period may safely be reduced to just a few days. It’s called the world wide web for a reason and it permits voters to literally vote on the go without having to block out any special time for it or wait until they return to a main office to vote on a desktop computer.

Of course, it is rare when an organization has email addresses for all its voters and even more rare when all those email addresses are up-to-date. For this reason, most organizations are generally unable to conduct an election in the span of only twenty-four hours without a high probability of disenfranchising some voters. For cases of voters with no email address on record, it’s still advisable to send them some paper via U.S.P.S. containing instructions on how to access the online ballot and vote. Likewise, for voters whose email address is no longer valid and attempts to notify them via email fail, you may wish to make alternative attempts to reach them. It should be noted, that for the best possible voter turnout, an organization should never rely solely on email anyway. Monthly publications, notices on a web site and whatever other communication channels are at your disposal should all be put to use in notifying your voters about the election.

So four weeks is an antiquated and unnecessarily long duration for an election, and one day is generaly too short to deal with practical matters. What then, is the ideal length for an election? There is no one-size-fits-all answer, but I generally recommend about ten days. That allows enough time to send an email announcement at the start of the election, plus one or maybe two reminders during the course of the election. It also allows ample time to provide service to any voter who may need it and gives time for an election administrator to enter any paper ballots into the system that may need to be accounted for.

That said, if you’re in a position to pull it off even quicker, go for it!