Here you can find all the information you need to run online elections and polls and to count ranked ballots online with OpaVote. Please read these instructions carefully and run a test election or two before you run a real election. Although we have tried to simplify the process, there are many important details, and making a mistake (e.g., forgetting a candidate) can require you to restart the election and be a bad experience for your voters.
OpaVote allows you to (i) run elections, (ii) run polls, and (iii) count ranked ballots that you have collected in other ways (e.g., paper ballots or another online system). We refer to each of these as items.
A poll is similar to an election, except that anyone can vote, and the manager does not provide a list of voters. The manager must publicize the poll using a website, emails, or social media.
Elections and polls include the following features:
A count allows you to obtain election results for ranked ballots that you have already collected. You can choose a variety of counting methods, such as instant runoff voting, the single transferable vote, and Condorcet voting. Counts have more counting options than elections or polls, such as the ability to withdraw candidates and break ties manually.
Elections and polls have three stages: EDITING, VOTING, and END. Counts have two stages: EDITING and END. Each of these stages is described in further detail in our pages specifically for elections, polls, and counts. Note that once you progress from one stage to the next you cannot go back. Please double check that everything is correct before you go on to the next stage.
Before using OpaVote, you need to login, and you can login with a Google, Facebook, Amazon, or LinkedIn account. We need your name and email address from your account, but we do not use any other information and we do not make any posts on your behalf.
If the acccount you login with does not have an email address or has an email address that is bouncing, then you will need to change your email address before using OpaVote (a working email address is required).
OpaVote allows you to share your OpaVote login with other people if you would like more than one person to be able to manage your items. From your account page, you can access a link that you can share with others to let them login to OpaVote as yourself. Only share this link with people you trust because anyone with this link has complete control over all of your OpaVote items.
OpaVote also has password accounts where we use your email address as your user name and you provide a password for the account. Before using a password account, you must verify that your email address works by clicking a verification link in an email that we send you. If you forget your password, go to the login page and request a password reset email.
The management console is the starting point for managing all your items. Here, you will find buttons to manage all of your existing items, to create new items, and to make payments.
From the console, you can also set the manager name, manager email address, and time zone that are used for all of your items.
All items have an expiration date. Free items expire one week after creation. For each $10 transferred to an item, the expiration date is extended by two weeks. If you need to access your item after the expiration date, you can extend the expiration date by transferring a payment.
After the expiration date, voters cannot vote, and you cannot manage the item. You also cannot see election results after the expiration date. You thus need to end your election before it expires!
Two weeks after the expiration date, all information about the item will be permanently deleted.
OpaVote pricing is available on the pricing page. If your item goes beyond the free limits, then you need to make a payment to increase the limits.
Payments may be made from the payments page. These payments are available to be used with any of your items. Before you move beyond the EDITING stage of an item, you must transfer payments needed for that item. Transfer of a payment to an item cannot be undone so please double check before transferring a payment.
After starting an item, you may later need to add an additional payment. For example, if you need to add voters or would like to extend the expiration date. From the management console of an item, there is a button to transfer $10 from your available balance to that item. If your balance is $0, then you need to make a payment first as described above. If you need to transfer more than $10, then use the transfer $10 button more than once.
The payments page shows a log of payment activity. All payments are non-refundable.
Elections, Polls, and Counts, all include a "results page" for presenting results to managers and/or voters. For Elections and Polls, only the manager can see the results page by default. In the managment console, there is a "Publish Results" button that allows anyone to see the results page. For Elections, when you click Publish Results, an email will be sent to all voters who voted to let them know how to see the results. For Counts, the results page is public, but since the page address is not, other people cannot see results unless you share the address with them.
The results page includes:
OpaVote uses the BLT format for storing ballots. At the end of an election or poll, you can download the ballots into a file in the BLT format. For counts, you can upload a file in the BLT format and then count the votes with OpaVote.
A ballot file contains the following information:
The BLT file format has some other features that may be useful for some users:
An annotated example of a BLT file is shown below:
4 2 # Four candidates are competing for two seats -2 # Bob has withdrawn 1 4 1 3 2 0 # First ballot 1 3 4 1 2 0 # Chuck first, Amy second, Diane third, Bob fourth 1 2 4 1 0 # Bob first, Amy second, Diane third 1 4 3 0 # Amy first, Chuck second 6 4 3 0 # Amy first, Chuck second with a weight of 6 1 0 # An empty ballot 1 2 - 3 0 # Bob first, no one second, Chuck third 1 2=3 1 0 # Bob and Chuck first, Diane second 1 2 3 4 1 0 # Last ballot 0 # End of ballots marker "Diane" # Candidate 1 "Bob" # Candidate 2 "Chuck" # Candidate 3 "Amy" # Candidate 4 "Gardening Club Election" # Title