The advantages of secure online voting systems over cloud-based survey software

October 18th, 2017

‘Off the shelf’ packages are inexpensive but do they offer the security and transparency your election needs?

 

If you are responsible for running an election, ballot or poll, you will want to ensure that it is conducted in a fair, transparent, impartial and secure manner.

Organisations which elect members to positions of responsibility will often appoint an Independent Scrutineer to carry out the ballot. This will usually happen by asking members to vote via a postal method or online via a secure online voting site.

As a leading election services provider, UK Engage acts as both an Independent Scrutineer and Returning Officer for organisations across the country, and has witnessed the rise of online voting a very popular method of capturing votes. For organisation that chose to run elections, ballots and polls in house, online survey software is sometimes selected as an inexpensive way to collate opinion without incurring administration costs from outside. It’s also quick and easy to use.

Sounds good, what’s the problem?
If organisations carry out this activity internally they may be at risk of diluting the key election principles of impartiality, security and confidentiality, which may call into question any election results. For organisations that have contentious issues on which to vote, or if the election is high profile, this may be an issue. These systems also don’t easily support more complex voting methods such as the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

Best practice for online elections
If you want to make sure your election, ballot or poll is impartial, it is always best to outsource this activity to an election service provider who can undertake the administration and scrutiny of your process. Such companies have the experience, systems and knowledge to run secure and transparent elections, ballots and polls, especially those conducted online.

Secure online voting v survey software – the key differences:-

Security:
Secure online voting systems like UK Engage’s platform offer security. Firstly, your member will have to enter information personal to them, in order to access the voting site (the most secure systems can request up to three unique pieces of information before access is granted). Furthermore, votes can be encrypted so that the vote is completely confidential to the voter; the scrutineer nor the client can see their choice.

Complex voting methods:
Custom-built secure online voting systems support more complex voting methods, such as the single transferable vote, where proportional representation is achieved through ranked voting.

Member engagement:
Online voting provided by an external election services provider can offer the added benefits of engaging with your members. As part of UK Engage’s online voting system, clients can brand the system with their colours and imagery. The site can also link to a dedicated engagement hub, where all election-related information is kept, alternatively they can be redirected to a client’s election page on their website.

Survey systems indeed have a place in canvassing opinion and gauging reaction, and have many merits. However, if you want to ensure the validity, transparency, security and impartiality of your organisational election, it’s best to consult an Independent Scrutineer to discuss a robust, secure online voting system that is fit for purpose.

To find out more about UK Engage’s online voting solution and e-democracy package, please contact us today:

Contact UK Engage:-

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

Clients are more than satisfied with voting services

September 17th, 2017

Voting services from UK Engage get the seal of approval in 2017 survey

Election services provider, UK Engage, has released the results of its 2017 customer satisfaction survey. Having improved consistently over the last few years, the independent scrutineer scored an outstanding 99% satisfaction rating for the way it administers ballots and elections, and for its improved range of online voting services.

The online customer survey was issued to customers from across the UK and was available to access throughout July and August 2017. Customers were asked to provide feedback on all areas of service, from general satisfaction and benchmarking against other similar companies, to feedback on sales and account management, quality, deliveries, reliability and customer support.

The results of the customer satisfaction survey contribute to the company’s Customer Service Excellence Standard. As the only electoral services provide to hold the CSE Standard, UK Engage works hard to maintain high standards of customer service throughout the business.

Talking about this year’s results, Services Director and CSE champion, Steve Power, said of the survey results “Once again we are extremely pleased with the results of our online survey. Our customer-centric ethos means that we strive to deliver great service at every touch point throughout the customer journey. We’re glad these efforts are appreciated by our loyal customer base. It really is a testament to the commitment and professionalism of our staff.”

The company now hopes to provide an excellent voting services to UK trade unions, as on 13th September, it was announced it had been officially approved by the Secretary of State, as an independent scrutineer for trade union elections and ballots.

UK Engage works with multiple market sectors, providing voting services and engagement services to ensure maximum member participation.

For more information please contact UK Engage on:

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

UK Engage gains official approval to administer trade union ballots and elections

September 14th, 2017

Leading independent scrutineer gets the chance to supply services for trade union ballots

 

UK Engage, a brand of Print Image Network Ltd, one of the country’s leading electoral print and mail suppliers, is delighted to announce that it has been certified as a supplier to administer statutory trade union ballots and elections.

On Wednesday 13th September, the company was informed that the Secretary of State made the Order, cited as the Trade Union Ballots and Elections (Independent Scrutineer Qualifications) (Amendment) Order 2017, that UK Engage will appear on the approved list to supply trade unions, when the Order officially comes into force on 1st October 2017.

The company has extensive experience in both statutory and non-statutory elections.  Under the Print Image Network brand it produces legislatively-led electoral stationery, printing millions of poll cards, postal votes, ballot papers and other stationery items, on behalf of local authorities across the UK, each year. UK Engage is a well-known brand providing independent scrutineer and member engagement services to vertical market sectors, including professional bodies, member organisations and NHS Foundation Trusts, to name a few.

John Foster, Managing Director of UK Engage, said of the announcement “We are absolutely delighted with the news that The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has accepted and recommended our application to supply the trade union market.  The announcement means that trade unions have a greater choice of which supplier to use to administer elections and ballots.”

He continued “Being a leading UK election services supplier, we feel with our expertise and experience of statutory and non-statutory elections, we are ideally placed to provide trade unions with a first-class service.  We are confident that we have a market-leading offering and have the skills and expertise to provide trade unions with an unrivalled balloting provision.”

As one of the UK’s leading suppliers of electronic democracy and ballot solutions, UK Engage also has its own innovative and secure e-voting platform to support trade unions, should the law change to allow them to vote using online solutions.

Andy Tye, General Manager at UK Engage had this to say about the news “UK Engage operates in many markets and is a hugely experienced independent scrutineer.  The news that the trade union market has opened up is extremely exciting for UK Engage and the industry. We hope that we will also be able to assist trade unions with e-voting services for elections and ballots at some point in the future, as we have seen e-voting help to improve voter turnout in other market sectors. We are also confident that our system is the most secure in the UK.”

For more information about UK Engage, its scrutineer services and credentials, or to arrange a meeting, contact us via phone or email: –

Call: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

UK Engage achieves Investors in People Silver

August 21st, 2017

Investors in People Silver achieved following re-assessment

 

UK Engage, a brand of electoral services provider Print Image Network Ltd, has achieved Investors in People Silver, demonstrating its commitment to high performance through good people management.

Established in 2000, the North-West based company, prints and mails electoral stationery and other communications-based mailings for organisations and local authorities across the UK.  UK Engage and Print Image Network have produced circa 22 million pieces of electoral stationery collectively in 2017 alone, in addition to channeling millions of votes, securely, through its online voting platform.

Investors in People is the international standard for people management, defining what it takes to lead, support and manage people effectively to achieve sustainable results. Underpinning the Standard is the Investors in People framework, reflecting the latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry.

Paul Devoy, Head of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate UK Engage. Investors in People accreditation is the sign of a great employer, an outperforming place to work and a clear commitment to success. The team should be extremely proud of its achievement.”

Steve Burrows, Managing Director of Investors in People North of England delivered by IDG said:

“This is a fantastic achievement for the company and I would like to congratulate all of the team. We believe that your people make the difference and by investing in them you are looking to create sustainable success. IIP is designed to help organisations and their people to realise potential, providing a simple road map for excellence. With their Silver accreditation, the company is certainly working to realise their people potential.”

Commenting on the award, Services Director, Steve Power said: “We are truly delighted to receive the news that Print Image Network and our UK Engage brand has received Investors in People Silver.  Within the business we have a strong commitment to improving people management; knowing that we have exceeded the industry average against the new IIP standard, in each of the nine industry benchmark indicators, is a testament to our staff and everyone’s hard work.” He continued, “Our employees are our most valuable asset and as a business we intend to continue to empower our workforce so that we can achieve our future goals.”

Since the introduction of the new standard only the top five percentile of organisations assessed achieve the silver level straight away.

Ends

For more information about Investors in People please visit www.investorsinpeople.com

Printed election materials still have a place in organisational elections

August 16th, 2017

Voters still respond well to printed election materials

 

When planning your organisation’s election, poll or ballot it is important to think about the voter journey and how you can get the best results.  UK Engage believes that printed election materials still have a place in democratic processes and paper ballots can generate improved voter turnout, despite the popularity of online solutions.

Despite talk of the unstable future of print, in fact, research shows demand is still there and that paper remains a valued channel when deployed in the right way, sent to the correct demographic, for the right purpose.[1]

As the cost associated with printed election materials is often higher than online channels, UK Engage would recommend that organisations that incorporate paper ballots as a voting mechanism, make them as efficient as possible in order to (a) attract the voters’ attention and (b) make the voting experience quick and easy to do.

Design

The design of printed election materials is very important, especially ballot papers and candidate statements. Your ballot paper must allow the voter to understand who they can vote for and how they can do it with relative ease.  To remain impartial and not create bias it is recommended that candidates are placed in alphabetical order.  Finally, the ballot paper must allow for ease of vote counting.

Candidate manifestos can have shortened ‘impact statements’ providing a headline message of what they want to achieve if elected. This can be followed by a longer, clear and well-presented statement, written in the first-person to give personality to the candidates for election.

The use of colour, a clear font, boxes, illustrations and diagrams can all help to guide the voter through the process.

Wording

The wording on your ballot paper can be crafted to encourage members to vote.  Outlining, in short sentences, the importance of the vote and how it will contribute to the outcome of the election can encourage members to vote, as they will gain an understanding of their role in the process.

If the ballot paper offers multiple ways to cast a vote, make this clear.  If not, members may think they can have multiple votes via different channels.

It is also very important to clearly state how much time the member has to cast their vote often this is done in the wording with an additional graphic element that captures the voters’ attention to the voting deadline date.

Voting instructions

Instruct voters how to use the ballot paper and how many candidates to vote for. Popular voting methods are First Past the Post (FPTP) and the Single Transferable Vote (STV), the two methods will have very different instructions. Instruct voters to put crosses in the boxes for a First Past the Post election and numbers for a Single Transferable Vote election. A little more explanation may be needed to instruct voters through an STV election as it more complex voting method. Clear instructions on the ballot can lead to fewer spoilt votes.

Support & Advice

If you are using an outsourced independent adjudicator to run your election, clear contact details must appear on the ballot paper. If not, you may get an unnecessary influx of calls and emails asking about the election.  It is the responsibility of the Independent Scrutineer to offer election-related support and advice to your members.

Print & Postage

Working with an experienced electoral stationery printer can offer many benefits in terms of data security, print costs and mailing rates.  As reputable election services providers produce millions of pieces of electoral stationery each year, they are best placed to offer the best print and postage rates on ballot mailings.  In addition, they handle huge amounts of data, securely, adhering to data protection guidance and working to ISO accreditations such as ISO 27001.

Many clients that work with UK Engage experience high satisfaction when it comes to turnouts of postal ballots.  Recently, UK Engage worked with a leading UK utility provider to run an election where postal responses accounted for 82% of the overall turnout.  Implementing simple techniques when designing the ballot paper can help justify the extra cost associated with postal ballot packs.

For more information or to discuss a postal or online ballot with UK Engage, contact us today.

Tel: 0161 209 4808

Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

[1] PwC The outlook for UK mail volumes to 2023

Secure e-voting: How secure is the platform you use?

May 5th, 2017

UK Engage looks at secure e-voting and the levels of user verification

 

As security is an inherent part of any election process, it is imperative that the election services provider you choose can run elections with transparency and impartiality, incorporating the most secure procedures, systems and software possible.

Leading election services provider UK Engage knows that ensuring voter security and confidentiality remains the key requirement in any election.   Whether an organisation is operating a paper ballot or is using an online system, stringent measures must be taking to ensure that each voter has unique credentials which allow only them to vote.

In order to ensure client requirements, in relation to voter security, are maintained – UK Engage has updated its e-voting platform to include up to three-factor verification.  In simple terms, this means that clients can now have the option to ask voters to input up to three pieces of information before they can vote.

Andy Tye, General Manager at UK Engage says of the update. “Usually clients opt for one or two factor verification because reducing barriers to vote often results in higher voter turnout. However, on occasions, clients require a higher level of security.  The enhancement to our platform means that, where required, clients can ask voters to input three pieces of information, for example this could be a unique code generated by UK Engage, a membership number and a date of birth, resulting in an extremely secure e-voting platform”.

The additional verification option makes the e-voting platform one of the most flexible and secure on the market. Clients can choose the level of security they want for their election.  So, if a client wanted the most secure system, they would choose three-factor verification.

Three-factor verification is just one of the enhancements UK Engage has made to its e-voting platform. In addition, each and every online ballot and election is encrypted.  Furthermore, to supplement its existing ISO 27001:2013 Accreditation for Information Security, UK Engage now holds the Cyber Essentials certification.

To find out more about how UK Engage can help your e-democracy requirements, contact us on: –

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

Voting methods and e-voting used in organisational elections

April 26th, 2017

Does your e-voting system support the complexities of voting methods like the single transferable vote, as well as first past the post?

 

For membership organisation that govern by democracy, making sure the election process to your Board, Council or Committee is impartial and delivered according to the relevant election rules or constitution, is crucial to the validity of the result. This is why most organisations that undertake elections, ballots or referenda choose election services providers that act as independent scrutineers or returning officers.

As one of the country’s leading providers of election services for non-statutory elections, UK Engage is experienced in overseeing all types of democratic processes. As more and more organisations incorporate e-voting into their election processes, a common question we get asked is whether or not our e-voting platform supports a company’s particular voting method.

By far the most popular voting methods delivered by UK Engage are First Past the Post (FPTP) and the Single Transferable Vote (STV).

First Past the Post
Also known as FPTP, voters mark an X against their preferred candidate(s). Depending on the number of seats available the candidate(s) with the most votes are elected.

Single Transferable Vote
Often considered a more proportional system, the Single Transferable Vote or STV, requires voters to numerically rank candidates in order of voter preference.

There are advantages to using each system, however it is universally thought that first past the post is a much simpler process. For election administrators such as UK Engage, this means that conducting this type of election on and offline is a simpler process than the STV method. For organisations that want a more representative result, STV is often the more popular choice.

The principle behind STV is more complex, with many supporters of STV saying that it is more proportional and transparent than other methods. Votes get transferred, so if voter’s preferred candidate has been excluded or has a surplus, votes are then transferred to the next available preference, in accordance with the STV rules. STV therefore ensures that very few votes are unused. The quota for a candidate to be elected is calculated on the number of valid votes cast, divided by the number of seats plus 1. Then either the surplus is taken from those who have reached the quota or by eliminating the least popular candidates and redistributing their votes throughout the remaining candidates.

Due to the more complex nature of the count, although producing ballot packs and e-voting solutions that support the STV method may seem fairly straightforward, the method of counting and verifying the successful candidate/s will require an election specialist. That’s why ‘off the shelf’ e-voting systems or ‘survey’ based software often only support the first past the post method.

If STV is a method that appears in your organisation’s constitution and you want to ensure an impartial, robust and accurate election result, then a specialist election services provider should be assigned to adjudicate that election. Key suppliers of election services, such as UK Engage, have tried and tested e-voting platforms which accommodate both FPTP and STV voting methods and have the correct algorithm in place to calculate complex counts such as STV.

To find out more about how UK Engage can help your e-voting requirements, contact us on: –

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

UK Engage is a Cyber Essentials certified supplier

April 13th, 2017

Election services provider enhances its security against cyber attacks with Cyber Essentials

 

As a leading election services provider, UK Engage has to protect its company assets, IP and customer data, against common cyber threats.

Having held ISO 27001, the international standard for Information Security, for 5 years, information security processes are common practice at our North West based business.  However, to further secure our systems, UK Engage has gone through the Cyber Essentials application in April 2017 and we are pleased to announce that we have passed.

What is Cyber Essentials?
Cyber Essentials is a government-backed cyber security certification scheme that sets out a good baseline of cyber security suitable for all organisations spanning all sectors. The scheme addresses five key controls that, when implemented correctly, can prevent around 80% of cyber-attacks.

UK Engage has successfully shown that we have implemented the following five Cyber Essentials Controls to help us stay secure: –

  1. Demonstrated a secure configuration of computers and network devices
  2. Use boundary firewalls and internet gateways to block attackers and external threats
  3. Manage strict access control and administrative privileges to staff
  4. Showed evidence of software patching and licencing
  5. Implementation of appropriate malware protection

Why Cyber Essentials?
Working with all types of organisations to provide multi-channel nomination and voting solutions means handling confidential data and information.  For UK Engage it is therefore crucial to eliminate risk wherever possible, as cyber attacks can cause expense and disruption, something the company will go to extreme lengths to avoid.

Managing Director, John Foster, says of the certification “The reason we applied for Cyber Essentials was to add an additional layer of security to our already robust security set-up.  Knowing that, as a business, we are protected from the vast majority of common cyber attacks allows us to concentrate on our customers’ needs with confidence.”

UK Engage Services Director and Customer Service Excellence ambassador, Stephen Power, added “Achieving the Cyber Essentials certification will help to further enhance customer trust and confidence in our organisation and our service.  As a team we work extremely hard to put the customer first; the customer experience and security has to be at the heart of everything we do.”

Included in the assessment was an external penetration test, which UK Engage passed.  The assessment was completed by IT Governance, the full scope included firewalls, routers, end user devices and hosted systems at the company’s headquarters.

For more information please contact the UK Engage team on: –

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

Brand identity and membership organisation elections

April 6th, 2017

How important is your brand identity to the outcome of your election?

 

Like any brand, membership organisations have to work hard in order for members to feel affiliation and loyalty. A brand identity means that consumers can more easily relate to the brand, forming an emotional attachment. By joining a membership organisation individuals inherently relate to the organisation, however emotional attachments can fade if the organisation changes (or doesn’t change), creating a ‘disconnect’ between the two.

Election specialist, UK Engage looks at how part of a brand’s personality – its visual identity, can encourage participation in elections, ballots and referenda.

The visible elements of a brand such as its logo, colours, design, name and symbols, together identify and distinguish the brand in the consumers’ mind.   For a membership organisation, its identity should be a representation of its reputation, conveying its attributes, values, purpose, strengths, and passions.

Member organisations will apply an identity to all manner of visual communications, ensuring the message is received by and understood by members.  The identity will be applied to websites, intranets, social media platforms, sales collateral, advertising, signage, stationery, merchandise and packaging.

Maintaining the same brand identity when employing external suppliers can be a little harder to manage.  UK Engage has encountered many examples where organisations need help with the continuation of the brand identity.  In a democratic scenario, where an external adjudicator is assigned to run an election, careful attention should be paid to a company’s brand guidelines in order to maintain the continuity of the identity and what it ultimately stands for.

Applying brand identity to election materials

If any third party is representing an organisation, they must be fully aware of its brand guidelines in order to fully represent the brand.  Although an election may be administered by an external company, the communication channels, be it print or online, must seamlessly replicate the organisation’s identity.

UK Engage’s in-house design team works to an organisation’s brand guidelines to develop printed election materials.

When designing printed communications such as nomination forms, candidate statements, ballot packs and engagement materials, such as letters, postcards, banners and posters, election service providers are able to transfer the brand identity easier than with online alternatives.   Most election services suppliers offer online nomination forms and e-voting platforms but these online alternatives may not offer the freedom that’s available with printed materials, in terms of applying a brand identity.  Often online forms are generic in design with limited opportunities for customisation.

In order to apply a brand identity to every element of the election, membership organisations should choose an election services provider that has innovative and modern online solutions, which can be customised to support their brand identity.  UK Engage has updated its e-democracy services and now offers branding opportunities on its online nomination and e-voting platform.   Logo, colours, designs and imagery can now bring your brand to your online election, continuing the relationship members have with their membership organisations.

To find out more about how UK Engage can help bring your brand identity to every aspect of your election, contact us on: –

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org

How handheld voting can help improve participation at your AGM

April 4th, 2017

Make it easy for members to exercise their AGM voting rights with handheld voting devices

Depending on the size of your organisation you will probably take a different approach to AGM voting. Voting on resolutions and/or candidates for board or council positions, can be carried out in a number of ways before and at the AGM, and in person or by proxy.

Votes can be cast before the AGM; the most popular methods are by a paper ballot or by an online voting system, often referred to as e-voting.  In this scenario, organisations can begin engagement well in advance, ensuring all eligible members receive communications by post or online, including information about the AGM and instructions on how to vote, including appointing a proxy.

For members who wish to attend the AGM in person, in order to exercise their democratic rights, the voting options may differ depending on expected attendance and of course, budget.

Smaller organisations may simply prefer a traditional show of hands or perhaps may opt for a paper ballot, which is still a popular way to collect votes. However, larger organisations may consider the benefits of handheld digital voting systems as a way to encourage more votes at the AGM, as voting via these devices is quick and easy to do, and offers an immediate response.

Voters simply select the button which reflects their preference or preferences. Using an audience response system makes it easier for the member to vote, aiding participation and improving voter turnout.

Benefits of handheld voting:

  • Immediate response while the member is fully- engaged
  • Improved visibility of how engaged the audience is overall
  • Fast, accurate count (no spoiled votes)
  • Determine voter turnout quickly
  • Limits the requirement for count staff
  • Easy to use handheld devices
  • Full technical support at events

To find out more about how UK Engage can help you organise the right voting system for your AGM, workshops or other organisational events, contact us via the details below. Alternatively, visit us at MemberWise’s Membership Excellence 2017 on 27th April 2017 at the Park Plaza Hotel Victoria, London, where we will be supplying the handheld voting devices as well as exhibiting.  You will find us at Stand 14.

Tel: 0161 209 4808
Email: enquiries@uk-engage.org