Six lessons learned from 2022 OSI elections

Before I mark a major project as DONE, I always take time to write down what worked, what didn’t and fresh thoughts on how to do things better next time. The OSI elections occupied my mind for almost all of Q1. Here is my hot take on the 2022 elections.

Consider whether to run the elections separately

This was a recommendation from consultants in 2021 and we will need to discuss with the board how to implement it for future elections. Running two events of this magnitude in parallel is demanding for the limited staff we have. It’s easy to make mistakes, like putting links to the wrong page on an email, for example. The Board already has a “fall cycle” during which appointed Directors are renewed: it may make sense to run one election around that time. On the other hand, running both elections in one quarter will free up time for the rest of the year. We’ll have to evaluate this option very carefully.

Voters’ participation is quite low

For the Affiliates election we emailed 81 representatives of Affiliate organizations. 48 of them opened the ballot email, 41 visited the voting website but only 31 voted. A total of 50 organizations (62%) didn’t vote.

For the Individual election we emailed 567 Individual members: 312 opened the email, 212 people visited the website and 164 voted. 71% of members (403 in total) didn’t vote. What’s more disturbing, half of those who opened the email didn’t vote and, worst, one out of five who visited the page (22%) gave up on voting.

These numbers are not shocking given the fact that OSI at the moment doesn’t have staff and a program assigned to maintain relationships with Affiliates and individual members. We’ll have to get creative to improve the engagement in the near future.

Clean up the data early and often

A lot of time went to cleaning up the data to understand who is responsible for electing Affiliate representatives. Out of 81 registered Affiliates, only 47 responded confirming the contact person representing the organizations. It took us weeks to complete the process and that effort wasn’t paid off by larger participation. Ideally we’d want the Affiliates to keep their own records clean during the year. We already know that the Affiliate program needs a new approach.

Individual members' data is a lot easier to maintain because most of that is tied to payments. We also have Lifetime members (mostly former Board members and notable volunteers) who need to be reviewed manually but there are not that many to cause issues.

Reminder emails work

Any tool we use to run future elections will have to keep the reminder emails: The peaks below correspond to the nudge emails sent automatically every 3 days.

We need a better voting tool

In hindsight, we realized we didn’t dedicate enough time picking an alternative to Helios. The tool we used for 2022, Opa Vote has two major issues: It’s not Open Source although it used to be. In fact it was forked from OpenSTV and appears to be towards the end of a rights-ratchet cycle so is unsuitable for OSI to use. Additionally, it doesn’t send voting receipts to individual voters or offer them a way to ensure their vote has been counted.

We’ll need to research alternatives for the next elections, something that is as easy to use as Opa Vote for administrators and for users, is open source, doesn’t require double-opt in for the voting email, allows for different election methods, regularly sends emails and has minimal reputational issues).

The election cycle won’t restart until later this year, in Q4. We’ll start thinking about addressing these issues then. Stay tuned for more conversations on processes, tools and methods.