Online Voting: Rushed by Necessity or Long Overdue?



In 2002, PARN surveyed 32 professional organisations regarding their online voting practices. Our findings revealed that only 4 of the respondents had used online voting to elect council, board, or committee members. 11 of the organisations were considering making provisions for online voting, with rationale at the time including the capacity of online voting to attain global reach and bringing professional bodies into the 21st Century.

Those who objected to online voting raised concerns such as issues of access for those unable to use the internet, the maintenance of anonymity and the possibility of vote manipulation. 3 organisations were pursuing changes in their governance documents to allow for on-line voting, a bureaucratic task that may have been challenging many organisations.

A more recent ATN survey, conducted in 2018, suggested that many organisations were still unequipped to deal with online voting with only 6 out of 30 organisations allowing for members to vote in advance online and many still requiring proxies voting or in person attendance. Of course, this slow progress became a significant issue as the unpredicted COVID-19 pandemic plunged society into lockdown. Our survey in May 2020 exemplified this struggle, with 11 (out of 23) organisations scrambling to make voting procedures fit for a digital World.

Between online voting becoming a necessity, both for elections and governance, and the rushed deployment of such measures, we wonder whether professional organisations have forgotten some of the issues that prevented widespread adoption back in 2002? We question also whether the abrupt transition has caused changes to by-laws, articles of associations and other documents to be carried out in haste, or perhaps not carried out at all? There may be ongoing implications that ought to be revisited.

With these considerations in mind, we pose a concluding question to our readers: If online voting systems were implemented in response to the pandemic, were concerns around online voting mitigated and documents of governance brought up to date?