We spoke to Ms Friedrich, the division manager of the board of directors at VR Bank Kitzingen eG about their recent representative election which they conducted with POLYAS. They were able to increase their voter turnout and reduce time lost managing their elections while simultaneously cutting costs. We caught up with Ms Friedrich to ask her about why the bank chose to offer online voting.
Why did you decide to elect your representative board online?
We decided to offer online voting because we wanted to make the voting process smoother for both us as well as our members. For example, we didn’t want to sieve through thousands of ballot papers. We also had to send out all election documents by post in previous elections. This doesn’t really correspond to our environmental values. We, therefore, decided to give our cooperative members the chance to vote both online as well as via post.
Were there any noticeable changes in organizing your election online?
In our representatives’ election, we offered our electorate two voting options. Firstly, we gave members who use online-banking the ability to vote by logging on normally with their online-banking details. Secondly, members that do not yet use online banking received all voting documents via post as usual.
From our perspective, this made organizing the vote significantly easier. For example, we were able to cut costs when printing the election documents, thereby saving significant expenses.
It was also easier for our voters. Previously, they had to bring all voting documents in person to a branch to cast their ballot. Online voting has allowed them to vote in the quiet of their own home.
How has online voting affected your voter turnout?
Our turnout has increased noticeably. This year we had a turnout of 8%. Our last turnout in 2011 was just 5.4%.
What is especially interesting is the percentage share of how voters cast their ballots. Initially, we thought that two-thirds would cast their ballots via post and only a third online. We therefore, sent voting documents to two-thirds of our electorate and a third received login details for online voting. It turned out that online voting was more popular than we thought it would be. Two-thirds had cast their ballots online and only a third had done so via mail. Turnout increased by enabling convenient and easy online voting.
Were your voters satisfied with online voting?
With our first online election with another provider, we received a lot of negative feedback regarding the accessibility of the voting portal. This time we had no negative comments at all regarding the accessibility of the voting platform, nor its usability. Our member satisfaction is mirrored in the higher turnout. All in all the election was a success for us.
In the run up to the representative board election did you conduct any sort of online marketing, and did it have a positive impact on the election?
We have been fully transparent about the election process and POLYAS’ voting system on our website. It is particularly important for us that POLYAS preserves the secrecy of the ballot. All in all, we noticed that transparent information about our representative election on our website had a positive impact on the election. From our perspective, the level of transparency helped to build more interest.
Would you consider additional marketing for your next election?
In the future, we are planning to do more with our newsletters. We have fewer critics of our election process now but have more in regards to the way in which candidates are selected. In our next election, we are aiming to begin planning our election earlier and to have someone in charge that will be responsible for the election as a whole. This will allow for more information about candidate selection in the run-up to the election.
Will you be conducting your future representative elections online?
We will definitely be building further online voting capabilities in future elections, as more clients begin to use our other online services. We are expecting approximately 10% growth in this segment and at some point it is possible that we will only offer online voting. Login details will still be sent via post for legal reasons, however. It is our current goal that by 2021 our next representative election will be solely online.