1 - Pre-Election Setup
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1 - Pre-Election Setup

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Creating the Election


Login into your Simply Voting account by navigating to Simply Voting’s homepage and clicking “Login” in the upper right corner. The first page you will see is the Election Manager’s “Elections” page. From this initial page you will start building your election.

An Election represents a voting event. All elections begin in Draft status, and while in Draft status your election is fully editable.

Your election cannot be voted in until you change the status from Draft, as discussed further on in this Guide. You may also have multiple simultaneous or overlapping elections, serving multiple voting events.

To start creating your election, click on the blue Create New Election button. If no elections are on your account, your Elections page will look like this:

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If elections are on your account, your Elections page will look like this:

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In the pop-up window that appears, enter a title for your election describing your voting event in the Election Name field (e.g. “2021 General Election”), Usergroup if applicable, and define the election’s Start Date and Time, and End Date and Time. Clock times correspond to the time zone selected on your User Profile page.

You can add an optional Description describing the election, which will appear at the top of the election ballot. As in any other Description field in the Election Manager, you may add emphasis by using the Formatting Buttons in this field.

Once you have filled out the New Election form, click the Create button.

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Description Formatting Tips

Hover over a Formatting Button if you are unsure about its function. If you have a large amount of text, try using the “Fullscreen” button to make your setup easier.

You may optionally Clone an existing election to copy over its dates, electors, and questions into the new election. To do so, click on the desired Clone button from the Action column on the Elections page.

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In the pop-up window that appears, enter a title for your duplicate election in the Election Name field (e.g. “2021 Special Election”) and specify a Usergroup if necessary. Then, click the Create button.

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Managing the Election Details


After you have created an election, on the Elections page click on the View button to begin management. Use the navigation panel to navigate from the Election Overview to the Election Details section.

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In the Election Details section, you can edit the election’s Name, Starting Date and Time, End Date and Time, as well as the optional Description describing the election. You may also optionally specify a Usergroup.

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Managing Electors


In the Electors section, you can start adding eligible electors. Electors are all eligible voters that can participate and vote in your election. You can begin by adding electors Manually one by one, or you can Import electors in-full by setting up and formatting a .CSV file with your elector data in it, which will save you time and energy.

What to Use as Elector Data

The most common data needed to run any election are Elector IDs, elector Names, and elector Email Addresses. These datasets are provided by your organization.

Finally, an additional secret, known as a Password is also typically the last element to an elector's record of data. Passwords by default are auto-generated by the Voting System and not known by any user.

Additional data may be needed if you have opted for Premium Features. This may include categories of elector membership, vote weight data, or additional authentication secrets like a date of birth.

Data for mailing addresses and other static elector information may also be used if you have requested additional feature activations.

Moreover, if you need to specify a Password for every elector instead of using a randomly generated Password, please contact Support.

The chosen data to be used for Elector IDs is entirely up to your organization. Elector IDs need to be unique to each individual. We suggest using an Elector ID that may already be known by an elector, such as a “Member ID” or “Employee Number” that is permanently associated with the individual, when possible.

This data may already be used for internal tracking in your organization’s own database. Sometimes an individual's "Internal Database ID" is not known to electors, which is still fine. Other possibilities include an arbitrarily assigned number.

Important Notes About Elector IDs

If you have multiple elections with the same electors, make sure their Elector IDs are the same and consistent across all elections. If you have multiple elections with different electors, make sure Elector IDs are unique and are NOT recycled or used twice for two or more different individuals.

Moreover, if you have some or all of the same Electors in multiple elections, these Electors will be able to use their unique Elector ID (consistent across all elections), and any Password to authenticate themselves—a sort of “one stop shopping” approach that allows electors to not have to worry about associating a specific election password with a specific election.

If Elector IDs are recycled and are not wholly unique to an elector, this will result in an Elector ID Collision at Finalization.

If a Name is supplied for any elector, emails will greet them using their name and when they authenticate themselves and access the voting ballot, their name will be displayed at the top of their screen. Names can be full first and last name(s), or whatever combination is preferred.

Names are not required, though can help for troubleshooting and reporting.

If an Email Address is supplied for any elector, users will be able to use the Voting System's Email Blast feature to send out voting instructions and login credentials to electors.

Electors do not necessarily need to know their Passwords in advance since electors can receive them in the above mentioned Email Blast.

.CSV File Formatting

A properly formatted .CSV file, using a common spreadsheet software, may look like the sample below. This sample also includes some exported data which is not necessary for voting, and which users can choose to ignore during the import process.

In the .CSV file, each column corresponds to a category of elector data, and each row corresponds to a unique, individual elector. The order of data in the file is not important.

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Additional data may be provided if you have opted for Premium Features. This may include categories of elector membership, vote weight data, or additional authentication secrets like a date of birth.

Data for mailing addresses and other static elector information may also be provided if you have requested additional feature activations.

Controlling Elector Authentication and Format

To control Password Type (Alphanumeric vs Numeric) for auto-generated passwords, and to control Password Length, super users can adjust these account wide configurations on the Settings page in the Authentication Details section, when an account is set to Standard Authentication.

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Remote Authentication

If Remote Authentication is used (anything other than Standard Authentication in the Authentication Details section), Passwords are ignored completely.

If you have any questions about Remote Authentication or about what technology is supported, please contact Support.

Importing an Elector .CSV File

Once you are ready to import your elector data into the Election, navigate to the Electors section and click on the 🠕 Import Electors button.

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In the pop-up window that appears, browse and locate the desired .CSV file. If your first row contains column headers, leave the relevant box checkmarked. Click the Import button to begin the process.

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Once you've started working with your .CSV file, the Voting System's importer will display the first few rows of your file for review. Now you must "map" the elector data in your file, to the available Voting System fields by using the dropdowns at the bottom of the pop-up window.

Map the corresponding data in your file as necessary, and ignore any irrelevant data not necessary for import. When ready, click the Import button to continue with the importing process.

If you receive an "Invalid .CSV file" pop-up, you may have attempted to import a spreadsheet in a different file format, which is prohibited.

A sample mapping might look like the example below.

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Upon import completion, a green Success Message will appear with statistics regarding the recent import. If any issues are found, they will be displayed in the message.

If you anticipate needing to add, delete, or update electors en masse during an election’s voting period, please contact Support to discuss unlocking additional import operations.

Reviewing and Addressing Any Initial Issues

Once Electors have been imported into your election, if you come across any issues or errors in this Draft stage of the election, you should attempt to resolve them, or at least be aware of them. The import Success Message will detail certain issues that were identified. It is perhaps prudent to review the original source data and make updates in the organization's own database to preempt future issues.

To edit an elector and resolve for instance a misspelled name, you can edit an elector by clicking on its Edit Elector button in the Action column.

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Once you’ve fixed any errors, click the Save button to update the elector’s record.

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The Election Log will contain a timestamped activity record that a change was made to an elector. This is accessible either directly in the Election Log section, or you can review individual elector activity records through the Elector Log by clicking on Show Log button in the Action column for a given elector record.

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Managing Bad Emails

Upon import, there may also be electors with Bad Emails that may be fixable. Please refer to the Managing Bad Emails section later in this Guide.

Managing Questions


In the Questions section you define the items or issues being voted upon. Questions represent individual topics on which your electors will vote.

Click the Create New Question button to start the creation process.

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Create a Title for your first question describing the topic (e.g. “Board of Trustees”) and then click the Create button.

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After you’ve created a new question, click on the Edit button to manage the question's details.

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In the Question Details section you now edit the Title, specify a Description (Optional), and upload an Image (Optional). In the Description you can use formatting to add emphasis as desired.

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Description Formatting Tips

Hover over a Formatting Button if you are unsure about its function. If you have a large amount of text, try using the “Fullscreen” button to make your setup easier.

Now you must specify the Type of question and additional question details. See below for an explanation in greater detail of Types and other related details.

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Question Type: Plurality (most votes wins)

This is often used for candidate races or Yes/No questions, and this is your basic election ballot question type. It is the type of question that requires electors to “ Select from the following options.

  • For Plurality questions you may also select whether or not you would like to accept Write-ins. Free Write-ins allow electors to “type-in” a voting option in a free form text field. If Free Write-ins are enabled, Simply Voting standardizes any nuances in capitalization. Or you may select Validated Write-ins which checks a voter’s input against the names on the imported elector’s list, ensuring you do not receive any non-valid write-ins (e.g. King Kong). Write-ins are tabulated on the results section like any other results.
  • For Plurality questions you must specify the number of options that Voters Select. Voters can select…
    • Only one option
    • Up to x options
    • Exactly x options
    • Between x options and x options
      (e.g. If 3 vacancies are being filled on our Board of Trustees, you could specify electors must select between 2 options and 3 options, out of 6 total options).

Question Type: Preferential (rank each option)

This is often used for preference questions where electors must rank in order their preference for certain voting options.

  • For Preferential questions you must specify how Voters Rank, which defines how many of options must be ranked for a vote to be accepted. You can make it so voters need to rank…
    • All options
    • Any number of options
    • At least x options
    • Up to x options
    • Exactly x options
    • Between x options and x options
  • For Preferential questions, you must also select the Counting Method, which determines how your results are calculated. The following Counting Methods are available:
    • Borda Count
    • Single Transferable Vote / Instant Runoff Voting / Alternative Voting
    • Condorcet Ranked Pairs / Tideman
Detailed Counting Method Explainers

For a more complete explanation of Preferential questions and possible Counting Methods, please click here to visit our FAQ.

  • For Preferential questions, you must specify Number of Winners, which defines how many voting options will be elected (e.g. If 3 vacancies are being filled on our Board of Trustees, the winners would be set to 3).

Question Type: Comment Box

This is often used for gathering freeform text responses to questions that require the elector to supply some form of information or text (e.g. “Additional comments” or “Please update your contact information” etc.). There is no limit on how much content an elector can supply for a Comments question. If Abstain is enabled, electors simply leave the text area blank if they do not wish to comment.

Question Type: Info Box

This is often used to group similar questions together, such as those relating to a particular office or position or perhaps a series of bylaw changes, or to simply to add descriptive or informative text somewhere on the ballot.

For instance, you could specify a header Title such as “Bylaws Section 1.0.2 Changes” and a Description that contained the proposed text of the Bylaws. Then you could create a series of questions all relating to changes in “Section 1.0.2” before adding in an additional Info Box for changes to another section.

Finishing Question Setup

For some questions you must also specify whether electors are allowed or disallowed to Abstain, and if they are allowed to do so, whether Abstain is listed as an explicit option.

You may also decide whether the Voting System’s default Voting Instructions are displayed to voters or whether you wish to write your own instructions in the Description field above.

For some questions you must specify the Sorting of Options, which defines how voting options are presented to electors when viewing the ballot. These sorting options include Random, Alphanumeric, or in a specific Fixed Order.

Click the Save button after you’ve filled out the details of the question before proceeding onto Question Options.

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Reordering Questions

After you have created multiple Questions, you may adjust their order and placement on the election ballot. To do so, simply click on the Reorder Questions button to enter reordering mode.

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Once you are in reordering mode, you can click anywhere on a Question and then drag and drop them into a new order. Once finished, click the Save Changes button. A green Success Message will briefly display in the bottom right corner of your screen.

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If you wish to exit the mode or to discard your order and return to the previously saved order, simply click the Cancel Reordering button.

Managing Question Options


Options are the candidates or options electors may select. There is no limit to the number of options.

To add options to a question, navigate to the Questions section and click on add options link in the Options column.

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If the question already has options, the link in the Options column will indicate the number of options already added, as shown below. To add, edit, or remove options, click on the link in the Options column of a given question.

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You can add options manually (example below) if you have a small amount, or you can import from a .CSV file if you have a large amount of options or if you would like to upload simple descriptions with each option.

Adding Options Manually

To manually add multiple options at once, click on the Add Options button when inside of a question's options.

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In the pop-up window that appears, simply click the icon_plus (plus) button to create additional fields.

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To delete unneeded fields before adding options, simply click the icon_trash (trashcan) button.

Once you have specified the options you wish to add, simply click the Add button.

Adding Options From a .CSV

To Import multiple options, you must configure a .CSV file using a common spreadsheet software with 2 columns in the following order:

  1. Option Name (required): The option's name will appear on the ballot. Each option should have a unique name.
  2. Option Description (optional): The option's description will appear on the ballot.

A properly formatted .CSV file may look like the sample below. In the .CSV file, each column corresponds to a category of option data, and each row corresponds to a unique, individual option. The order of data in the file will be the order upon import.

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When managing a question's optitons, click on the 🠕 Import Options button. In the pop-up window that appears, browse and locate the desired file, then click the Import button.

Importing Options with Descriptions

Short descriptions are best for this method, since no formatting or paragraph styling is preserved upon import. If you have extensive styling needs, adding descriptions and formatting them manually or using pre-formatted files and linking to them is suggested.

Editing Options

After you’ve created one or more options, click on an Edit button to adjust the Name, to manage and format the Description, and to upload an Image if necessary. Once finished, click the Save button.

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Description Formatting Tips

Hover over a Formatting Button if you are unsure about its function. If you have a large amount of text, try using the “Fullscreen” button to make your setup easier.

Reordering Options

After you have created multiple Options and if you selected Fixed Option Ordering, you may adjust the order and placement of options beneath a given Question. To do so, simply click on the Reorder Options button to enter reordering mode.

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Once you are in reordering mode, you can click anywhere on an Option and then drag and drop it into a new order. Once finished, click the Save Changes button. A green Success Message will briefly display in the bottom right corner of your screen.

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If you wish to exit the mode or to discard your order and return to the previously saved order, simply click the Cancel Reordering button.

Proofing the Election


Once you have finished managing your entire set of question Options, navigate back to the Questions section and review your election by clicking on the Proof the Ballot button.

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Proofing will give you a sense of how an election will look and how electors can interact with it from your Voting Website. Additionally, you must cast at least one proof vote in order to later Finalize the election.

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Click the Copy Link button to copy the unique proof link for your election. You may share this proof link with other associates or colleagues via email. These other evaluators can access the Ballot Proof without having to access the Election Manager.

Click the Open Ballot Proof button to navigate to the unique Ballot Proof for the election. Complete the ballot as a dummy elector and click the Continue button at the bottom to proceed to the Confirmation page.

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On the Confirmation page, once ready, click the Confirm button. After doing so, a green Success Message will appear, and the option to Proof Again will be available. When proofing is finished, simply close the browser's tab or window.

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Scheduling an Initial Email Blast


In order for your electors to receive information and voting credentials, you must Schedule an Email Blast. View your election and navigate to the Email Blast section.

Finalization is Required for Any Email Sending

No email blasts will be sent while an election is in Draft status. Only elections that have been Finalized can send out scheduled email blasts.

You have three choices when choosing the recipients of your Email Blasts:

  • You may send an Email Blast to All Electors with a valid email address, often useful for sending out your first invitation and instructions.
  • Or you may send an Email Blast to Electors that have not yet voted, often useful for sending out reminders to increase voter turnout.
  • Or you may send an Email Blast to Specific Electors, often useful for resending invitations or reminders to individual electors with bounced email addresses that have been corrected, in addition to countless other possible reasons.

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Once you have decided on the recipients of your email blast, specify who the message is From. Then you may specify the Subject and format the Body of the email message.

The Voting System provides you with a standard content template, but the Body of the email is a free form text field so you can add, remove, and format content as you would like.

Reloading Most Recent Blast

You may also optionally use the Reload most recent from, subject and body button to populate the specified fields with the last email blast you sent.

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Alternatively, you may use the Reload button for a specific email blast located in the the Email Blast History. This comes in handy if you have varying messages you are sending to your voters.

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In the Body, items in {brackets} indicate items of special code, which will be unique to each recipient, and the system will automatically fill in appropriate {bracketed} information as the emails are sent out to electors:

  • Use {name} to address your electors (Elector ID is used if Name is unavailable).
  • Use {elector_id} and {password} to supply electors with their voting credentials.
  • Use {direct_link} to allow electors to bypass logging in manually by allowing them to click on a unique securely encoded hyperlink in the message.

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Once you think you are satisfied with the Body of your message, you can click on the Preview button in order to review a Sample Preview, ensuring that your {unique code items in brackets} are properly formatted and functioning correctly with dummy fictitious elector data from a "John Doe."

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The Importance of Testing Direct Links

If you are sending a “direct link” to electors, from the Body Preview test it by clicking on the direct link – you should login in as a dummy voter who is not registered to vote in any ballots, with “FAKE_ID” in the Logout field. If you do not see this, you may need to reformat the URL, especially if you were copying and pasting the link. You will only see something akin to the below snapshot if you are using a properly formatted direct link.

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Once you have configured your email message, you can now schedule an email blast to be sent to your electors at the election's start, inviting them to vote in your election, and supplying them with their unique voting credentials and instructions. Alternatively, you can opt to send an email blast later at a specific date and time of your choosing.

To send an email blast immediately at the election's start, select the Send at election start button below the email’s Body in the Schedule section. Click the Send button when you are ready to confirm this action.

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After scheduling your email blast, a yellow Finalization Pending notice will appear at the top of the page, and the Email Blast History section will be updated with your new email blast.

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For more information about Managing Email Blasts, please refer to the Managing Email Blasts section further in this Guide.

Customizing the Voting Website


Once you have completed your election review, if you haven't already you may optionally proceed to the Settings page and the Voting Website section to further customize your Voting Website’s color scheme, logo, and descriptive instructions text. Remember, these items are account wide and apply to all elections.

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Once finished, preview the look and feel of your Voting Website's login page, as well as any additional text you've adjusted in the Voting Website section, by clicking on the URL for your account's Voting Website in the Organization Details section.

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Finalizing the Election


Once you have completed your election review and customizing the Voting Website, navigate to the Finalize section to complete a final check.

You cannot Finalize your election until you pass all the final checks on the Election Checklist. If an action is required, you will see items you need to address. A common mistake is not using a future Start Date and Start Time or not casting a vote on the proof ballot.

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Once the Election Checklist is complete, proceed to the Checkout and complete your purchase. If you have previously purchased any Single Election credits that are applicable, such credits may be used for finalization, and if you have a current Annual Plan that is applicable, it can be used for finalization too. If you expect to run multiple voting events but do not have an Annual Plan, please contact Support to learn more.

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A green Success Message will appear once your election has been Finalized.

Once Finalized, your Election’s Status will change from Draft to Waiting and your election will begin and end automatically at the dates and times you specified earlier.

Edits After Finalization

Once an election is Finalized, users cannot edit or change the ballot to protect the election’s integrity. If you find a mistake or need to alter the ballot after it has been Finalized, please contact Support.


Next Up:

Waiting and Active Election Management