Today we are talking to Mr Veltkamp from the University of Osnabrück, Germany, who recently decided to conduct their university elections with POLYAS’ online voting system. In the interview below, Mr Veltkamp explains why his university decided to vote online and how their election transpired.
Why did you decide to offer online voting?
The introduction of online voting was an executive committee decision. There were a few contributing factors: for one, we wanted to reduce the personnel costs involved. The ability to have an election that would not be fixed to a physical location was also an important factor as to why we decided to switch. Another factor was to allow students to vote at multiple polling stations – not just in their faculty department. An offline election like this would have been very challenging and would have inevitably incurred errors with both the distribution and counting of various ballot papers. In order to simplify such a complex election, we decided to offer our university elections online.
Were there administrative differences between on- and offline elections?
Online voting can help avert human errors. With paper elections, we had the problem that some voters received incorrect ballot papers. Indeed, because many different people were involved as election volunteers, we didn’t have full control over the election. We have had similar problems in the past and more than one election has had to be repeated because of this. Online voting ensures that we don’t need to administer physical polling stations. Additionally, ballots were quickly and efficiently counted which was a great relief. This alone used to take over four hours.
We also had a paper election ready on standby, as we weren’t sure whether the online election would work as we hoped. If anything would go wrong technically or organizationally, we could have organized a standard, paper election at short notice.
Next time, when we will know how to use online voting effectively, we are aiming for more efficient election preparation and organization.
How satisfied was your electorate with online voting?
The online election was received positively from the majority of voters and the election turnout increased slightly. Especially among students, we can conclude that voters were more satisfied than with paper elections.
During the election, you sent out reminders to vote to your electorate. Did you conduct any additional marketing concerning your election?
ASTA (The Student Union) sent out a reminder at the half way point in the election which was primarily aimed at students. The election turnout is usually lower amongst students in comparison to professors and academic staff.
Did you have a microsite where you could post candidate information and voting lists etc. on?
Because the decision to go for online voting was made at relatively short notice, we didn’t post any information about the candidates online. Election news and information was, as customary, printed on paper and distributed through the standard channels.
Did ASTA or other university groups prepare election announcements or reminders?
ASTA and other groups were prepared as they usually were – with placards. In our uni-canteen, for example, there was a banner about the online election. In addition, the election committee sent out an email to all voters to announce the start of the election period. Information about the election was also posted on our university portal – OSCA.
Next time would you do anything different regarding the marketing of your election?
Nex time we will make sure that we post information on all of the candidates on our website.
Learn more about how you can optimize your election administration
Did you adjust your electoral regulations to allow online elections?
Yes, but we used templates from other universities to help us. Furthermore, our regulations were approved by the senate without a significant delay or effort on their behalf. It was proposed sometime in September and was already adopted by October. Our election regulations now allow online voting as well as paper elections.
Why did you decide to conduct your university elections with POLYAS?
POLYAS is the German market leader. While we do have a software department, creating and designing an online election is very complex, with huge legal hurdles. We therefore decided to go with an established company for our election.
Would you conduct your future university elections online with POLYAS?
We were extremely happy with the election process and are planning to use POLYAS for our future elections.
Mr Veltkamp, thank you for the interview.