Securing a Smooth Transition to In-person Voting at the Annual Church Convention
The Episcopal Church of Minnesota holds an annual convention to vote for candidates from various offices and several resolutions.This year's convention was marked by a strong sense of unity and optimism as the pandemic was pushed further away, and the gathering of such a large group was possible.
At that time, attendees from over 90 congregations travel to a single place that holds around 300 people to pass important resolutions, elect new officers, and agree to budgets. The Episcopal Church of Minnesota wasn't entirely new to the VPOLL voting platform, having used it the previous year for e-voting, but this was the first time the VPOLL platform was put to the test for in-person voting. Their decision to continue with VPOLL came down to key factors: reliability, customer service and knowledge, efficiency, speed, and customization.
Sandra Stevenson, Missioner for Networking at the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, took the time to tell us how they use VPOLL.
Efficiency and hands-on support
Creating an organized voting infrastructure was essential to ensure that the event ran smoothly and that all attendees had access to the needed resources. This time they voted on fewer questions than were initially programmed, with the main focus on electing delegates for the General Convention.
"Previously, we would use a paper ballot that you send through a machine. It was problematic for a lot of reasons. First, it's not nimble because you have to preprint the ballots. If there are changes to the item being voted upon, you cannot reprint the ballots and are then relying on folks voting with their voices or hands raised. And when you've got 300 people in the room, that's a problem".
With varying levels of tech-savvy attendees, the diocese needed a professional member from the VPOLL team to ensure the entire process was accurate, nimble, fast, and transparent.
"It is so helpful that we don't have to be experts. Because Scott is with us in the room during the practice session and the actual business meeting and in charge of VPOLL helps alleviate a lot of anxiety knowing that if anything needs to be changed, or there's any kind of an issue, he knows exactly what's going on."
VPOLL gave delegates the ability to vote not only securely but also quickly. Each delegate was provided a unique ID and could cast their votes on their own devices. They could also use various voting options, such as a single-choice or multiple-choice voting. Once the voting was completed, the VPOLL system tabulated the results in real-time. The Bishop and Secretary of Convention also used VPOLL's reporting capabilities to monitor the voting progress and get a real-time view of the voting results, which allowed them to track the progress of each vote easily, and ensure the accuracy of the votes, which wasn't the case before. The smooth voting process positively impacted the energy and mood of the church congregation.
"We give the people in the room a lot of time to read the question, wake up their phone and get help if needed. They voted, and once the results were in, they were displayed instantaneously. The whole process can take less than two minutes."
Building Trust and Integrity with Custom Design
Finally, the Church Convention Committee relied on VPOLL for some of its advanced features:
- Votes by Order. VPOLL can specify that only certain groups within the voting delegation can vote. In this case, there were two elections that required a vote by orders; electing deputies to the General Convention and electing members to the Standing Committee. That means only clergy members could vote on the clergy candidates for General Convention and Standing Committee, and only lay members could vote for the lay candidates for General Convention and Standing Committee. VPOLL automatically prevents a delegate from the incorrect group from casting their ballot. For example, a lay member would be prevented from voting during a clergy vote.
- Voter Authentication. Only delegates who received credential numbers could log in to VPOLL successfully. Therefore, voting and non-voting members could be present at the convention but only voting members could successfully log on to VPOLL and cast their votes. VPOLL’s custom election design made it possible to accommodate these voting criteria. Election commissioners were able to differentiate between clergy and lay members and segregate them into different categories so that they could vote on the proper channels. It also made it harder for fraudulent voting, as the system knew exactly who should be voting on each issue and would not allow another person to participate. Overall, VPOLL's custom election design provided a more secure and efficient voting system that allowed clergy and lay members to participate in elections without any issues or concerns.
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