Delegates and board of directors elections are an important part of democracy in cooperatives. Tradition and digital opportunities are well to combine as research by Polyas suggests.
In North America, there are around 40,000 cooperative organizations in various sectors. The economic advantages are not the only reason why so many people choose to become a member. Community and co-determination are the most important reasons here.
The right for co-determination
Every member has a right to get involved in the cooperative, no matter how many shares they have. Members make significant decisions on the annual general meeting. Cooperatives with a large membership can choose to have a delegates meeting rather than a general meeting. Therefore, the cooperatives regularly conduct delegates elections according to democratic principles. The current research by Polyas deals with the question: how do cooperative members elect their delegate?
Traditional customer-friendliness in the cooperatives
In general, cooperatives that have more than 1,500 members tend to have a delegates election for the members. The delegates then elect the board of directors on behalf of the members. The term for most delegates and board of directors varies between two and four years. Some even elect or re-elect every year.
The delegates election is often a ballot box election. In this case, cooperative members have to go to the next branch and cast their vote in person. Small and regional cooperatives prefer the ballot box election in their branch. Therefore, the traditional customer-friendliness to members and clients is held.
Low turnout with postal vote
Cooperative members do not always have the possibility to go to the next branch. Especially in cities, many people do not have much time in their daily life. In addition, people living in rural areas are not in reach of a cooperative branch. That is why many cooperatives include postal vote in their voting procedures. Some even choose to allow only postal vote in their delegates elections.
However, if cooperatives use postal vote, they invest a lot of time and money. Members must apply for ballot papers on time and send the filled out ballot back in a certain period. These are the reasons for a low voter turnout. On average, turnout stays under 10-15%. Postal vote can hardly fill the gap of the generally low turnout.
That is why many cooperatives choose to vote entirely online or combine online voting with traditional voting procedures. Read our case studies to learn more about online voting in various organisations.
Modern and traditional: that works.