Saving time. It’s one of the three ElectionsOnline distinguishing characteristics. When it comes time to run an election, the ElectionsOnline online voting system allows you to log in to your client account; click Set up a new election; and proceed through the 3-step election creation wizard to set up a ballot. The election management tools then permit adding, removing or otherwise changing any part of the election. It’s a very efficient process, but not every election provider works this way. The alternative is to round up and provide everything that pertains to your election to a provider; wait on them to set things up; review their setup; submit changes to them; wait on those changes to be made; review those changes; and back and forth it goes. Interestingly, for the occasional prospective client that may have used that approach in the past, they might initially think it sounds simpler. We may attribute this to the mere-exposure effect, the psychological phenomenon by which people tend to develop a preference for things merely because they are familiar with them. Of course there is nothing simple, nor quick, about going back and forth with a vendor making tweaks and those clients who may initially have some reservations about self-administration being more streamlined become convinced of its virtues after going through it. A few obvious reasons self-administration is preferable include:
- Instant ballot creation. Walk through the user-friendly election setup wizard, and your ballot is created in minutes and ready for review.
- Instantly review and edit your setup. There’s no need to submit a change ticket to a vendor, then wait on them to complete the ticket only for you to review the change and see that it’s not what you wanted in the first place and have to go through another round of edits.
- Copy previous elections. While first-time ballot setup is streamlined with a self-administered service, it gets even faster still in following years when you’re able to benefit from the ability to simply copy any previous election.
- Candidate biography self-service. In the same way that clients may self administer their own ballot setup, so too may candidates self administer their own biographical setup. This is one of the biggest time-savers built into the ElectionsOnline service and is a far simpler approach than for an election administrator to have to round up all the candidates’ biographical packages; forward that to a vendor; and go back and forth until everything is added to the system and formatted correctly. The life of the election administrator is much simpler by distributing that workload to the candidates themself where you even have the option of requiring that their materials be entered into a template which enforces consistent layout among all candidates.
ElectionsOnline did not always offer a self-administered solution. In the early years back in 2002-04, the only way clients could get an election up and running was to go through the cumbersome process described in this article’s opening paragraph. That happens to be how I came to be so very familiar with how inefficient that process is! Client feedback drove the evolution to the more modern and streamlined self-administration model and even during the time when the two models were offered side-by-side, client usage made it glaringly obvious that self administration is the preferred approach. That does of course hinge on one thing—that the system’s user interface reflect an obsessive committment to usability and ensuring the setup tools match the user’s mental model of how the system should behave. Fortunately, while time-savers are one of the three distinguishing properties of the ElectionsOnline system, so too is a committment to user-friendliness.