In the last decade, technology has been developing more rapidly than ever. Smart phones and tablets have crossed over from personal use to become critical business devices. While the private sector is generally quicker to embrace the use of automation, public sector organizations are scrambling to catch up as their stakeholders demand access to more and more digital services. This is driving the public sector to move from being laggards, to earlier adopters of technology.
Applying digital automation to manual work processes is now the norm in most organizations. Nowhere is this transition (a.k.a. “digital transformation”) and the demand for transparency more apparent than that for council, board and committee meetings.
Gone are the days of decisions making shrouded in unintended secrecy. Today’s constituents want to know specifically how their representatives are voting on issues that affect them, not just that they were present during the debate.
As more organizations look to phase paper (think agendas and supporting materials) out of the meeting process, what about a key part of the decision-making process – i.e. voting – during the session?
What is Digital or e-Voting?
Digital, or e-voting as it is commonly called, refers to the use of some sort of technology to cast, count and record vote results, such as a dedicated terminal, kiosk, or as is the trend these days, a computer software-based app. Benefits include more votes cast, faster vote results with fewer errors, and the opportunity to easily broadcast results to constituents in real-time.
Council decision making can either be done in open or closed session, depending on the nature of the subject. However, for good governance, keeping as much of the decision making process as public as possible conveys a greater sense of openness and accountability. By combining the right digital voting solution with live web streaming of meetings, public boards and councils can reach new heights of transparency, in an accessible, and environmentally-friendly way.
Why is this a game changer?
Traditional voting in meetings takes place by a physical show of hands. The Chair then makes a count of those members, for and against. Certain special votes require members to stand and announce their position to be manually recorded. Generally, the majority within the quorum to vote in favor of a motion wins. Manual voting is still widely used, working best in cases where everyone has similar opinions. However, it can become tricky when members have differing opinions on contentious issues.
This is where digital voting proves to have a definite, distinct advantage. It improves transparency especially when it comes to pecuniary interests, or where members may be influenced to raise their hands in favor of the popular option because “everyone else is”.
With digital voting, members are free to vote for the option they truly think is in the best interest of their constituents. For motions that require a specific number of voting members to be carried, digital voting can speed the recording process and improve accuracy. Additionally, results are electronically captured in the minutes and can be seamlessly published to the organization’s website for both real-time and/or archive purposes.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing…
All that being said, a blanket application of technology is not always the best approach, and in some cases, can become tedious and actually slow down proceedings. For most councils and boards, the best strategy may be to look for a vendor that provides a hybrid approach. One that allows the combination of traditional voting methods with advanced applications running on tablets to maximize both efficiency and transparency.
Each organization is different. It is important to make sure your vendor understands your goals in using electronic voting and that they are flexible with how you use it. As more organizations are making the change, you want to be sure you’re doing what’s best for you, and not what everyone else is doing.
Share with us how your organization votes!
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