CUES Rolls Out Electronic Voting Option For CUs

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No dangling chads here.

The Credit Union Executives Society in partnership with Survey Research Associates of Madison, Wis., is offering a web-based voting service that it says is more convenient and less costly than paper balloting.

"It all started when CUES was looking for an option to do online voting for our own election," said Holly Poast, CUES director of products and services. After researching the products of several companies, she said, CUES chose SRA for its product, pricing and track record. "SRA had an existing relationship with us," Poast said, noting that its products and level of security have proven better than "anything you will find."

After a successful in-house election using the software, CUES realized its potential for its member credit unions as well. "It went really well for us," Poast said. "We had more votes than we've ever had."

Since introducing the software several months ago, five credit unions bought the idea. One CU that "was trying to position itself as a leader in the technology realm" already completed its election and reported positive feedback, Poast said. Two others are in the midst of using it for their elections.

"We have heard from some credit unions that their main reason for going online with elections is to position themselves as a leader in the financial services industry in offering new online member services," Poast said.

Poast said not only does the product offer cost savings by eliminating the need to print and mail paper ballots, it saves a lot of time.

She said during the CUES' board elections, members were given the option of voting via paper ballot. "Not one person requested one," she noted.

The hope for credit unions is that those members who aren't yet comfortable with the technology or familiar with online banking services will seize this opportunity to learn more.

She pointed to NCUA data and a CUES analysis of CUs with assets of at least $10 million that found that approximately 22% of members are using online services.

"It's just my perspective, but I would think if they have members who aren't using online services, this might warm them up to them," Poast said.

She said the software is particularly ideal for credit unions conducting board or bylaw elections with vast FOMs. To participate, voters can either log on to their CU's website from home or at terminals made available in branch lobbies. "Among the questions we've been asked is whether CUs can use e-Vote in their lobbies," Poast said. "The answer is yes, as long as they have a terminal available with an Internet connection."

She said the credit unions that participate simply provide SRA with pictures and biographical sketches of the candidates along with a list of members eligible to vote. The company then develops the ballot, launches the election and certifies and reports the results.

Typically, results are made available within one business day of the election close, Poast said. However, CUs can pay an additional fee to have the final tally within 90 minutes.

The quick turn-around could come in handy during annual meetings where votes can be taken and tallied before the session ends.

With the CU's permission, CUES eVote contacts voting members twice by e-mail, first to announce the election and again toward the close as a reminder if they have not yet voted.

Poast said the program includes security devices that ensure the election is secure as well as prevents unauthorized or double voting. In addition, the online ballot recognizes voter errors and alerts the voter to correct them thus avoiding automatic disqualification.

The cost for the system is $5,000. It includes a design that complements the client's website, including logo and background colors, candidates photos, bios and additional links. For additional costs, SRA will also design, print, mail and tabulate paper ballots

Poast did say that certain states might have limitations on electronic voting and should seek a legal opinion.

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