The family calendar with multiple columns hung up on the refrigerator, the digital calendar on your office computer, the appointment planner in your briefcase – we use calendars both in our private and professional lives. You cannot simply keep everything in your head – and that especially applies to the planning and organisation of elections. By creating an election calendar while preparing for the election, you can schedule all of the planning, advertising and execution of your election.
The first step to planning elections, such as board or association elections, is to assess time constraints and find the most optimal points in time. Our fifth practice tip for planning elections is thus about deadlines, an election calendar and why it is sometimes better to put something off until tomorrow – even if you can do it today.
Preparing an election calendar
Election day or election period?
Certain events naturally have to be planned for the election. It must be decided in advance if there will be a set election day, or an election period spanning across multiple days. Of course, this depends on the electoral regulations and bylaws, or the association charter.
Pros and cons of an election day vs. an election period:
- Election day
The election is taken care of in one day. You do not have to provide space for a long period of time. Con: Anybody who has no time on this day, or is sick, cannot vote. You thus have to expect circumstances that cause lower voter participation.
- Election period
A fixed election period is protracted, so a polling location must always be available. This is costly for the electoral management and the association board. However, the advantage is obvious: Voters have more time to cast their ballots, so if in doubt, you will receive more votes.
If the electoral committee or election board are afraid of “losing” a lot of voters by opting for one individual election day, we recommend using an online voting system. This makes an uncomplicated, geographically independent election possible. Of course this is also ideal for an election period, and relieves you of the responsibility of having to provide space for the long term.
Listing time factors
Once you have chosen an election day or an election period, the next step is considering all of the time factors that could influence the election. Here are a few examples:
- Terms determined in the electoral regulations that must be adhered to, e.g. for election information
- Editorial deadlines (e.g. of association publications)
- Printing times (e.g. for printing informational brochures)
Listing the parties involved
Lastly, write down who needs to have access to the election plan calendar, aside from the organiser. Which members of the electoral committee depend on the set deadlines for their work? This will have an effect on the type of calendar you can choose.
Preparing an election calendar
Digital or analog? The type of election calendar
Depending on the size of the electoral committee or association management, you should decide whether you will opt for a paper calendar, a digital calendar, or both. There are pros and cons to each option here, too:
Analog on paper
When working with a smaller association election, or a small electoral committee in general, a wall calendar may suffice for planning. Place it in an area where it is clearly visible and available to everyone.
The disadvantages of paper calendars: Changes to the proceedings can quickly make it illegible. If someone is not in the right place, they cannot stick to the deadlines – unless they have been written down for them personally.
Digital and online
Digital calendars are suitable for large and small teams. They can be activated for every party involved and are available from any location with an internet connection. If there is no internet, then of course the appointments cannot be viewed, although this is a truly unlikely and temporary circumstance.
On the other hand, digital calendars have a few advantages: Changes are easier to make and automated notifications can be sent to everyone involved. Furthermore, deadline reminders can be set – they receive an e-mail or a mobile notification at a time set by you before a respective deadline. Thus you cannot miss an appointment.
Filling out the election calendar
What actually belongs in an election calendar?
This depends on you and your election, of course. Usually, the following items should be marked down in an election calendar:
- The time and phases of election planning
Define the phases of the election planning that end with a milestone: What is the defined goal of an individual preparation or execution phase? Give a broad plan of the required time frame, consider the necessary meetings and prepare the individual phases, ideally as an image. That way you know at a glance what the interdependencies are, i.e. which task can first begin once another is complete, etc.
- The election period
Election day with times, or election period
- Editorial deadlines and last issue deadlines for prints
As it is very important to advertise the election to motivate the voters, you should write down all printing deadlines. Allow for some extra room in case something unforeseen occurs (e.g. misprints or misunderstandings).
- Terms for election information and election notifications
Usually the election regulations or bylaws (or an election charter for an association election) dictate when the voters are to be informed of an upcoming election. You can make a simple back calculation from the date/beginning of the election. Also define which documents belong with the electoral information, and set the issue dates for printing them.
- Times for additional notifications to the voters
Additional notifications for the voters? Here’s what we mean:
Planning election information or reminders as “marketing measures”
As an election is generally not an eagerly awaited, leisurely event, it is often forgotten. There is nothing to be done about this, but it can be forestalled by making sure the authorised voters are sufficiently informed, reminded or included.
You can read various measures to do so in our 10 Tips to Increase Voter Participation. However, some food for thought is listed below for inspiration.
- Candidate information
Perhaps send an additional e-mail with information about every candidate up for election. This need not be extensive, a few key points will suffice. At the end of the e-mail, state where additional information can be found.
- News on the election
Keep all authorised voters informed of news, the current state of preparations and – in the event of a voting period longer than one day – current voting numbers. That way you include all of the voters and create a sense of belonging.
Start up some polls to get a picture of the voters’ preferences or feedback.
- Election reminders
Send out reminders of the election in regular increments. Also provide information on the rundown and process of voting. A good tip: Use personal and functional approaches! Then the individual voter groups will feel more included, and you will achieve higher voter participation.
These marketing measures can be employed via post, flyer, e-mail or social media channels. The electoral committee has to be creative!
In addition, enter the dates for these notices (and the times for the respective preparations) into the election calendar. You and the entire electoral committee thus receive a perfect overview of all measures for planning and holding the election.