Electronic Voting

This is a method that allows people to give their views on a particular service or issue. It is typically used as part of a wider event, such as a conference, and/or as part of a wider participation process which also uses other methods. The feedback gained from electronic voting can inform future stages of a participation process, e.g. checking whether people feel that an information event did in fact give them more understanding or change their views.

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How to do it

Preparation

  • It is usually necessary to bring in someone who supplies the system, including electronic keypads and hardware/software for totalling and displaying the results immediately.

Developing

  • Questions and the range of possible answers must be developed in advance.
  • The planning of the questions is vital. The method allows participants to answer two types of questions:
    • Quiz-type questions where there is one correct answer from several possible factual responses, for example 'How many dental practices are there in this town?' or 'What proportion of people living in this area see their GP at least once a year?'
    • Survey-type questions where the answers reflect the range of possible views people hold on the issue, for example 'Did you get enough information before you were discharged from hospital?' or 'What is your top priority for improving this service?'
  • Pilot the proposed questions in advance on a sample group.
  • There is the option to obtain participants’ views at both the start and the end of the discussion.

Planning

  • It is important to be clear in advance about the purpose of the voting – whose views are needed and why?

Facilitating the Session

  • The person leading the session must explain the process, take the participants through the question and answer session and oversee the displaying of the results in a manner which is good humoured and positive.
  • Each participant has an electronic keypad with which they respond by choosing from a range of pre-set answers.
  • The results can be displayed on screen immediately after the question and answer session.

Immediately after the Session

  • Participants should leave at the end of the day knowing how the information they have given will be used.

Pros

  • Many people are familiar with this approach from TV shows.
  • It can be presented in an enjoyable way even though the issue is serious.
  • It is anonymous in that although everyone can see who else is in the room, no-one knows how other people voted.
  • The total of the audience's views become available immediately.
  • This is an accessible method for people who find it difficult to write or speak in public.

Cons

  • The method cannot accommodate complex questions or situations where people may want to record more than one answer, although good question design can help to some extent.
  • It cannot be used to raise new or additional issues.
  • People lose interest if they have too many questions to answer.
  • There are likely to be issues around whether the responses are in fact representative – people at a conference may be more interested, or more able to participate, than other service users, and the numbers reached by this method are likely to be only a small proportion of the relevant population.

Resources

  • Staff time for planning and organising
  • Facilitation, venue and refreshments (although these may be absorbed into the costs of the wider event or conference if appropriate)
  • Equipment hire
  • Reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses for lay participants.

Top Tips

  • There should be subsequent feedback to participants on what was done as a result of their involvement.

Sources and Further Information

  • Electronic voting is a relatively new way of engaging with communities. There are a small number of companies which will facilitate this type of event in the UK. An internet search will identify relevant companies.