Get Out the Vote: More Associations Using Online Elections
While more associations and nonprofits are turning to online voting over paper ballots, voter apathy among members poses a challenge.
Eighty percent of association and nonprofit organizations use some form of online voting—an 18 percent increase from 2009—according to a new survey by Votenet Solutions.
Almost 50 percent of the 232 survey respondents said they use online voting exclusively. Roughly 30 percent use a combination of paper and online ballots, and 20 percent said they use only paper ballots, compared to 38 percent in 2009.
“Even back in 2009, the first time we did this study, there was a real interest in modernizing the election process,” said Michael Tuteur, CEO of Votenet Solutions. “I think that had to do with the fact that a lot of member services were increasingly moving online as organizations started to automate a lot of their processes. I suspect that was driven by member convenience and cost reduction.”
Despite the increased use of electronic voting, the survey found there is still a general sense of voter apathy. Respondents reported an average voter turnout rate of 32 percent, with smaller organizations generally reporting higher participation than larger ones.
“The study seems to indicate that voter apathy is a challenge for every association, and I think voter apathy is plaguing us even on the political stage,” Tuteur said. “There’s still a huge percentage of the population that does not participate even in our public elections, so on some level voter apathy is voter apathy and there may never be a perfect solution to get everybody involved.”
Email marketing was reported as the most effective method for increasing voter turnout, but Tuteur advised that associations begin leveraging their online communities as well to bring more excitement to an election.
One of the most cited explanations for voter apathy in the study was unfamiliarity with the candidates. Associations can use community discussion boards to facilitate candidate discussions or interviews before an election to help members get to know candidates and understand issues, Tuteur said.
He also suggested using peer pressure.
“After a voter votes, it would be terrific if it posted on their online community profile that they voted,” he said, “and maybe give that member a way to email or message other eligible members through the online community to encourage them to vote.”
What methods have you used to increase voter turnout among your members?