Voting by ‘ballot’ on Zoom or Email

A laptop with faces in squares on the screen. A blue pottery mug sits by the keyboard.Many people are asking about voting by secret ballot at congregational annual meetings. There’s a very good resource library on this question and others on the Shining Waters Regional Council website.

Executive Minister Shannon McCarthy writes, “As far as I am aware there are no perfect options for voting that is private or ‘secret’ in electronic meetings via zoom, but here are three ways it can be done if absolutely necessary:

Option 1: Zoom Poll

If everyone is on Zoom via video, then a poll can be set up to ask a specific question. Polling must be enabled and the questions must be set up ahead of time by the Zoom account holder.  With this method, only one person per device would be able to vote, so if couples/families are on the same device that limits how many can vote things. Anyone who is on the phone only can’t participate.

Option 2: Zoom Private Message in Chat

In this option you would have people send a private chat message to the ‘scrutineer’ registering their vote. Chat isn’t technically private, as all of the chat messages, including the private chats are visible to the zoom owner if they decide to save the chat. Whoever is getting the private chat messages will need to have time to count. It would look like this: (private message to Shannon) “Bill votes yes and Billie votes no”.  Again, those on the phone only wouldn’t be able to vote, and there is always a chance someone wouldn’t send it privately and send it to everyone by mistake.  I would make sure people understand how to send a private message first, and I would test it with a small group ahead of time.

Option 3: Email following the Meeting

In this option, you would have the discussion regarding the motion via Zoom, then allow for an email vote with time parameters set up. Tell people to send in their votes by a specified time (X number of hours or 1-2 days maximum).  In this case, whoever is receiving the votes would need to have a list of those who attended the meeting, and only those who attended can vote.  They could indicate if there are multiple votes from one email for couples, families etc.  Obviously, the person reading the emails would know how people voted, just like the scrutineer would know in the option above. But if it is set up in advance and agreed upon who will do this confidentially, people might agree.  This would also delay the results unless you were confident people would actually be able to respond via email while in the meeting.

Regardless of the method that you are using, the Board/Council/Leadership team needs to decide on a method in advance and then let people know the method in advance of the meeting.

Again: in most cases, secret ballot should not be necessary; and every method is imperfect and not fully confidential.”