Promoting every vote – digital transformation of electoral process
More than 1.5 million owner-customers with a right to vote, 81 cooperative banks and 157 constituencies. Four years ago, the electronic voting service piloted in the election of the Representative Assemblies for OP Financial Group’s cooperative banks proved its potential. Thus, in 2017, OP together with Nordic Morning set out on a bold effort: building the biggest electronic voting ever held in Finland.
OP Financial Group’s cooperative banks are owned by their customers, and they organize elections of their Representative Assemblies every four years. Of the owner-members nominated as candidates, the owner-customers of the cooperative banks elect their representatives for Representative Assemblies of OP’s cooperative banks. The elected members of the Representative Assembly participate in the cooperative bank’s decision-making process and are able to monitor closely the development of their own bank, OP Financial Group and the world of finance in general.
OP Financial Group expected the electronic election to
- further strengthen OP's position as a pioneer in e-business in Finland.
- create an optimally user-friendly, easy and attractive service that reaches the customers of online service.
- reduce the cooperative banks’ and branch offices’ workload induced by the election campaign.
- support environmental sustainability through paperless voting system.
The Representative Assembly elections have long been organized by utilizing paper processes and postal service. When designing the electronic voting process, the first step was to identify the fundaments of traditional elections and the ways of their operation. The findings were analyzed and restructured based on the viewpoint of the voters and the owner-members who wanted to stand as candidates.
What is the Representative Assembly election, and who are the ones concerned? How does the customer know of his/her right to vote? When will the votes be given? How does the customer know if he/she can stand for a nomination? When? What happens in the election, when and where? How do I stand as a candidate, what should I do, and how does the election proceed? How can I find a suitable candidate for myself and vote for him/her?
There are three different segments of customers that the election concerns and that need to be supported by the process: those who want to stand as candidates, their supporters and voters. In addition to these groups, the service was also used by photographers and cooperative banks' own administrators.
From the service design’s point of view, a further challenge to the project was the fact that all OP Financial Group’s cooperative banks do not participate in elections every four years at the same time. In addition, the various phases of the elections were divided over a long time period, and different segments of customers were targeted at different stages.
OP took a bold step and decided to restrict considerably the share of the electoral process based on postal service. Only 25 percent of the electors were informed of the traditional election based on postal service, the rest of the target group entitled to vote received the election announcement online. The owner-customers of age and using the OP eServices submitted their vote electronically. Other owner-customers and underage owner-customers voted in the traditional election. As the letter voting coincided with the electronic election, the latter had to be planned so that offline and online processes supported each other.
The nomination, the support of the candidates, the photographer's service, the election compass and the vote itself were merged into a single electronic service that was available both on a computer and on a mobile device.
In an unprecedented effort, 81 independent cooperative banks and five manual services that were previously completely separate were bundled into a single digital service. The result was the largest electronic election in Finland’s history to date. And all this in just six months.
The website www.op-edustajistonvaalit.fi was the hub of all electoral activity and communication. For the website, a timeline was created, the content of which changed according to the then-current stage in the election process.
- Nominations & photography 14th August–8th September 2017
- The election compass launched 30th October 2017
- Elections 6th–19th November 2017
- The election results announced 4th December 2017
Nominations & photographer’s service 14th August–8th September 2017
For the first time in OP’s elections, the nominations were handled completely by electronic means. On the basis of the data provided by OP to Nordic Morning, it was possible to validate all the owner-members who wanted to stand as candidates.
In order to receive a nomination, the owner-customer needed to have the support of at least three other owner-customers. Thanks to the electronic system, the owner-customers were able to send their candidate IDs to their potential supporters via e-mail, and the supporters were able to give their endorsement using the candidate IDs in the system. During the nomination process, the candidates were able to monitor their own support by logging in to the website.
The nomination process was also complemented by a photographer's service. Each approved candidate was photographed in a photographic studio authorized by OP. The photographers uploaded the photos of each candidate to the system using a voucher given by a candidate as the candidate's ID.
After the nomination period, each cooperative bank approved and created its own final list of candidates in the system.
Assembly & launch of the election compass
The system was used for sending a link to the candidates' e-mails, which led to a questionnaire that gathered further information about the candidates, to be utilized in the election compass. The data was downloaded to the election compass that was launched on October 30, about a week before the actual vote began.
Elections 6th–19th November 2017
Voters logged into the system with their own OP netbank access codes. If the voter was an owner-customer in more than one cooperative bank, the voter needed to choose in which bank’s election he/she wanted to vote during that login. After that, the system presented the candidates of the bank in question.
For the first time in the world, an election compass was integrated as an essential part of the voting service, so that it was possible to use the election compass and choose the candidate still in a voting situation. If a voter did not want to use the election compass to search candidates, it was also possible to find a particular candidate directly by giving the candidate's number or name.
The election results were announced on December 4, 2017
Combining activities that were previously separate provided significant benefits for OP Financial Group. The accessibility of voters and candidates, the enhancement of efficiency and the promotion of OP’s forerunner image are all the results that were achieved by organizing electronic voting.
Instead of 81 separate elections, all electoral activities were centralized, which brought – and will continue to bring in the future – cost savings. The average costs of this entire electoral service for each cooperative bank equaled to those of one medium-sized electronic voting service.
The goal was to invite a versatile group of owner-customers to participate as candidates in the election, and this turned out to be a success. Thanks to the e-service, more than 5,600 candidates took part in the election, which was a bigger group than ever before. The number of voters who submitted their votes electronically was two-fold compared to the previous elections, and the number of cooperative banks participating in the election was record high. A total of more than 2,300 new Representative Assembly members were elected for OP Financial Group’s cooperative banks.
Data can be forwarded from electronic service in real time. Monitoring the real-time vote status enabled targeted marketing in certain channels, which had a significant impact on the election results.
Due to electronic identification it was possible to efficiently collect data on voters and ways of voting, which cannot be achieved in traditional elections. This data can be utilized to develop the election of the Representative Assemblies for OP Financial Group’s cooperative banks further into more and more functional service. Concerning next election, raising the awareness of the elections and fostering the participation of young people came up as future development goals.
Client: OP-Services Ltd
Companies responsible for design and production: OP-Services Ltd, Nordic Morning Finland Oy, Edita Prima Oy