With the Internet, it seems all things are possible. Online capabilities—from mobile checking to customer service chat—make our financial lives easier. Technology advances lead to one-click solutions. Credit unions are using these improvements to benefit not only their members, but also employees and boards.
Votenet Solutions Inc., Washington, D.C., lists convenience as one of the main reasons CUs might benefit from moving to online voting in their board elections.
E-voting offers the easiest balloting method “for administrators and voters alike,” explains Votenet’s website. “For administrators, the process of setting up a ballot and conducting an election is simple and manageable. For voters, the requirement of marking a ballot and mailing it back to the organization is not needed. All that a voter needs is their login credentials and an Internet-ready computer.” Votenet is CUES’ partner in CUES eVote: Elect and Educate.
Good for Members
Kevin Wasylyshen, marketing specialist at $2 billion, 70,000-member Interior Savings Credit Union, Kelowna, British Columbia, sees value in offering members the convenience of e-voting for board elections.
“We realize our members lead busy lives and we want to make banking and voting in the board of directors election easy,” he says. “With so many members wanting convenience, allowing them to vote electronically just makes sense for our credit union.”
Interior Savings CU uses CUES eVote, which has delivered more than 32,000 online ballots and served over 16.9 million voters worldwide, in a secure environment that has been successfully used to detect and defuse attempted fraud.
“The new eVote system we used this year was far easier for our members to use than previous eVote systems,” Wasylyshen says, noting the CU received fewer questions from members about how to use the site.
CUES started using Votenet to deliver CUES eVote since Interior Savings CU’s last election. It shows voters where they are in the four-step voting process, prompts them to review their vote and sends them a printable confirmation.
Besides making voting easy for local members, electronic voting makes voting easy for international members, notes CUES member Stephanie Day, chief operating officer of $3.8 billion, 82,000-member Bank-Fund Staff Federal Credit Union, Washington, D.C., which also uses CUES eVote.
“Electronic voting improves participation rates and is much more convenient than paper ballots, particularly for a credit union like Bank-Fund Staff FCU, which has members across the world,” Day says. In addition, eVote “allows for verification of membership ... and can handle both our paper and online ballots.”
The CU’s participation rate for the last year it used just paper ballots (2006) was 5 percent. In 2014, with eVote, the rate was 6.5 percent. Bank-Fund Staff FCU received 3,072 ballots in 2006 and 5,286 in 2014.
“We have members in two major centers (Toronto and Ottawa) and several other communities across Ontario,” Alterna Savings and CU Chief Administrative Officer Jose Gallant says. “Given the difficulty of attending [the election] in one physical location, the use of electronic voting was meant to broaden member participation and engagement in the democratic process.”
Gallant also notes the ease of use electronic voting. Plus, he stresses the ability for members to exercise their democratic rights, and that the method is very cost effective.
By using an online system, the CU can cut the costs related to holding a traditional annual meeting, such as printed documents and refreshments. Members can now attend through a webcast at no cost to the CU, and all materials are provided digitally. Such expenses as printing mail-in ballots and postage were also cut with the switch to electronic voting.
He does note a democratic flaw inherent in remote voting of all kinds: “The program does not allow for discussion and debate in an open forum (like would be possible in an in-person annual meeting). However, members are always able to contact us for questions and feedback.”
Since 2001, EVote.ca has been working with Everyone Counts, San Diego. According to the company’s website the Everyone Counts technology can improve election accuracy, enhance security, produce cost savings and increase auditability.
Good for Staff, Too
$307 million, 40,800-member Charlotte Metro Federal Credit Union leverages CUES eVote’s full-service offering in part to make easier the lives of its staff, says CUES member Bob Bruns, president/CEO.
“All aspects of the election are handled by CUES, from setting up the voting site, emailing election notifications and sending paper ballots to members, to answering voter questions and tallying votes,” Bruns says. “With no ballot to fill out and nothing to mail back in, e-voting is (also) extremely convenient for our members.”
$24 million, 3,018-member Texas Coastal Community Federal Credit Union created its electronic voting system in house with an eye for controlling costs, says Kelly Davis, teller supervisor.
The CU notifies its members of an upcoming election through website announcements and paper mailings, and has a method in place for those members who prefer mail ballots, Davis notes.
“The members who would like to receive a voting ballot by mail can request to do so,” she explains. “We have them return their mail ballot request form to us, and we mail them a ballot. When ballots are returned to the credit union, they remain sealed until voting has closed. The supervisory committee reviews mail-in ballots, as well as the emailed ballots.”
In its 2010 election, the CU received 179 electronic ballots, which is double the number of electronic votes from the CU’s first electronic election in 2008. The CU did not have elections in 2012 or 2014.
Notably, federal standard bylaws impact CUs’ electronic voting options. Read more.
Members and users are beginning to expect electronic interactions instead of seeing them as just a perk. The benefits of e-voting are many, and this wave of the future appears to have already lapped up on the beach.
Molly Hayman was a CUES editorial intern and is now a Wisconsin-based freelance writer.