A new feature to the results report permits viewing results broken down either by any voter groups or special interest groups associated with an election. To learn the details of the two, visit Voter Groups Versus Special Interest Groups, but as a quick example they may be defined as follows.
Voter groups could be used when you have members of one geographical region eligible to vote in a few nationwide positions that any voter may vote for, and also perhaps some regional positions that are eligible for voting only by those living in that region.
Special interest groups (SIGs) are specialized areas of interest that members of an organization may optionally join for network opportunities and to exchange ideas with others who are also in that narrowly-focused field.
Historically, when retrieving election results, you would see only one version of the results page with all positions listed. With this new feature, the default view of the results will display as it always has, but you now have the ability to filter results by voter group and/or SIG to show:
- Results only for the position(s) voters of a particular voter group or SIG were eligible to vote in.
- How that particular group voted for the positions seen by all voters.
Why the Change?
The traditional reporting already included results for voter groups and SIGs so this change does not add anything to the ability to get results for those positions. The difference this makes possible is the ability to see how members of a particular voter group or SIG voted for those things that were eligible for voting by everyone. Knowing such things could have value well beyond knowing the outcome of an election. For example, suppose an organization has multiple SIGs and all but one of them elected the same President. It may be insightful to dig a little deeper into why voters from that one SIG preferred a different candidate from everyone else. Perhaps that one SIG is made up entirely of voters under the age of 30 who feel the national leadership is simply maintaining the status quo instead of progressing forward. Such a disconnect between organizational leadership and incoming new members—who will one day make up the majority of membership—could trigger an organization to ask itself if it needs to rethink its entire mission or simply conduct more targeted outreach to those who may not be getting the message it wishes to deliver.
Additional Value-Added Benefits
With this new reporting feature, there is also a new way in which voter groups could be used. You could create a group that divides the electorate into demographics based on age, gender or anything else you wish, then get results specific to that demographic at the conclusion of the election. When used in this manner, the point of the voter group would not be, as it has been in the past, displaying different positions to different voters. Rather, the point is to enable filtering the results by the various demographics you feed into the system during election setup. For that reason, when creating the voter groups, the same positions would be assigned to each voter group rather than for each voter group to have its own distinct set of positions assigned to it.
You can only get out of the reporting what is put into it prior to the start of the election. Don’t expect to be able to get results filtered only by voters of a certain geography and age range, and of a specific gender, after the fact. If you wish to be able to report on those things, it is necessary to create voter groups prior to the start of the election that fit that profile, and every other profile you wish to report on.
Is Secret Balloting Still Intact?
Yes. This does not destroy the secret balloting principle around which the system is built. In other words, enabling this sort of robust reporting capability did not require associating a voter with a ballot. Instead, it is the voter group or SIG code associated with a voter that is stored with the ballot, not anything specific to a particular voter.
Creating voter groups and SIGs is really very simple, and with this enhanced reporting feature making them useful beyond their originally intended purpose, there’s more reason than ever to take advantage of them. Remember also that voter groups and SIG codes are saved when you use the saved ballot templates feature, so election administrators really only have to go through the process of setting them up one time and they will be there for reuse anytime a new ballot is created from a saved template.
When it comes to understanding the sentiment of your voters, sometimes you only know what to look for after you’ve been shown you need to look for it. Exploit these reporting features and your election could serve as a tool for capturing business intelligence well beyond just who won an election and keep your organization relevant well into the future.