In the previous post we talked about the reasons why online voting could be a good option for your organization. Now, once you have decided that online voting is a good option for you, it’s time to look for the right online voting software for your electoral process.
6 aspects you may want to consider
There are various tools on the market, from the basic and simple Doodle polls to more complex and complete tools that assure anonymity. In order to choose the perfect option for your election, you have to pay attention to a few points and functionalities:
- Security: One of the things that it is widely considered when running an online voting is security. Depending on your organization’s needs this might have a different weight for you when choosing the right tool, but it is definitely a very important thing to consider if you want to preserve the privacy of the voters’ vote. If you want to dig deeper on this topic from a more technical perspective, I highly recommend you David Ruescas’ article on secure voting.
- Technical Support: Another very important thing to consider when choosing the right online voting software for an electoral process is the technical support it offers. To run an online voting is a delicate process, having the security of knowing that if you have any kind of problem there will be somebody there to help you and answer your questions is something to consider. As well as before, this might be less or more important depending on your organization an the type of election you are running, but do not forget to take it into account if this is something that matters to you.
- User Experience: Being comfortable with the tool and understanding its usage is also one of the most important things to consider. Make sure that you choose a tool that is easy to use, especially if you don’t have any technical knowledge. If you choose a very complex tool that you mostly do not know how to use, at the end it will probably lead into problems, especially if there is no technical support to help you. To be able to consider this, some tools will let you do a free trial, so you can create a test election in order to see if that online voting software fulfills your expectations.
- Census management: The way the census is managed in a online voting software is also an important thing to study. Depending on the size of your voting you may just want to add the voters’ data one by one, or choose to upload a file exported from a database instead, for example in CSV format. Having this in mind, make sure that the tool you choose lets you add your census information on a way that fits your needs. If you are running an election with 30 eligible voters, adding their data just one by one might be acceptable, but imagine if you have to do it on a census of more than 5000 voters, inconceivable, right?
- Voter authentication: In the more reliable online voting solutions, each voter on the census will have a way to authenticate unequivocally in order to be able to vote. When choosing the right tool, you will also want to consider the way voters are authenticated. Some tools, for example, will let voters authenticate with a unique code sent by email or SMS. In this matter, you have to pay attention again to your organization’s particularities and the type of eligible voters it has, considering which would be the best and easiest way for your voters to authenticate.
- Tool’s reputation: Taking a look at previous elections that have been ran with that specific software will also let you understand the importance and reliability of it. A tool that has been used in big and important electoral processes or used by public entities will probably be more trustable since their experience on the market would probably have made them improve the tool to its best.
How to manage the search for the right online voting software
Now that you know some of the most important things to take into account when choosing the right online voting software for an electoral process, it’s time to look for the right one for you. I recommend you to divide your search into 4 steps:
- Step 1 – Massive search: Search for different software solutions for online voting. The easiest way to look for various options is doing basic searches online. But you should also consider asking colleagues or friends for recommendations, they may have used some tool in the past and their experience will be helpful too. Spend a couple of hours searching and pay attention to the previously commented points that matters the most to you. Write down on a small table the options you find and the functionalities each one offers, as well as its prices, and anything else you may find relevant.
- Step 2 – Select the three top options for you: Take a look at the table you have done with all your investigations, and pick the three options you consider best for your case. As we always say, you should have in mind your organization’s particularities and needs, so pay special attention to the online voting software solutions that better fulfil your organization needs. You should probably consider at this point which tools will let you do some kind of trial or test account and which ones don’t. Pay special attention to the ones that have prices that match your budget too, selecting at this point a tool that is above your budget will not make much sense, since you will be forced to discard it later on.
- Step 3 – Try the tools: The best way to know if an online voting software fulfils completely your needs and expectations is trying it. Take your time to do some trials on each one of the three tools you selected. Try uploading a small census (some tools will not let you upload big census on a trial account) composed by maybe a few friends of yours or just a couple of different emails addresses that belong to you. Make sure the tool will let you upload all the information you want to appear on the ballots. As I said, most tools will have restrictions on the trial accounts that the paid plans don’t have, in most cases you will have the information about the functionalities each paid plan offers on its pricing page. However, do not hesitate to contact the support center if you have any doubt on a plan including a certain functionality. At this point you have to make sure that the tool you choose will let you manage the election process the way you want it to be.
- Step 4 – Select your perfect tool: Once you have done all the analysis on the three different tools it’s time to pick the one that better fits all your needs. After making your decision, follow the steps that the provider of the tool gives you to get the right plan of the software. Once you do all the formalities, it’s finally time to start managing your election process. If you have done the convenient tests on the previous step, this will not pose any difficulty.