From the News column of the September 2006 Perspectives
Online Voting System Continues for the 2006 Election
AHA Staff, September 2006
In 2005, the AHA introduced for the first time an electronic voting system for the annual election of AHA officers, which had until then been conducted through the traditional printed ballot. The results of that experiment were encouraging enough to further expand the online voting method. Members are being urged to preferentially vote online in the forthcoming balloting for the 2006 election. Members who had signed up to receive e-mail messages from the AHA have been sent a message reminding them about the election, and requesting them to select the method of casting their votes—electronically or by mail.
Members who do not respond to the e-mail message as well as those who opt for electronic voting will have received by September 1, 2006, another message with a web link that takes them to the relevant web page on the secure web site of Election Services Corporation (ESC), the company that conducted the 2005 election, and will again be managing the balloting and counting process. Printed ballots for members who elected to receive a paper ballot will be sent out on September 1, 2006. Members for whom the AHA does not have a valid e-mail address will also receive a paper ballot after September 1, 2006.
Votes can be cast online until midnight EST of November 1, 2006, the official closing of the balloting. Printed ballots should be received by November 1, 2006.
Even members who opted for the paper ballot and received them can still go online and vote using the number and password provided on the printed ballot. However, each member can only cast one vote. The first vote received—either on the printed ballot sent by mail or through the online ballot—will be the only one that will be counted.
How the E-Voting Works
ESC will accept the sole responsibility for preparation and distribution of election ballots to AHA members, and will receive, validate, and tally the votes for the election.
Furthermore, they will certify the election results, as well as provide an audit trail that will indicate whether and when a ballot was cast, without identifying a specific individual’s vote. In addition to assuring the integrity of the balloting process, ESC provides 24-hour, 7 days-a-week help desk service for the duration of the election, should members need a replacement ballot, technical assistance in voting online, or other information regarding the voting process; verification of AHA membership and a system check to assure that only one vote is accepted per member, whether the member chooses to vote electronically or by traditional paper ballot; Internet server and bandwidth capacity to allow voting members access to Internet voting within 15 seconds, even during peak access hours.
All AHA members wanting to vote electronically will receive an e-mail message with a unique computer-generated user name and password, which will be good only for the online balloting system. Once they successfully log in, members will be able to read the election rules and link to the ballot, which will also be linked to candidate biographies. After completing the voting, members will be taken to a voting verification page that allows them to review their votes and to submit them. A link on this page will allow a member who wishes to change a vote to go back to the ballot for revising the vote before submitting it. After making changes, the member can return to the verification page and submit the vote. Once a vote is submitted, the member will not be able to make any changes or submit any other votes. The system allows for only one ballot per member.
The procedures for paper ballots will be essentially the same as in previous years. After filling out the ballot, the member mails it back to ESC, which then enters it into the system. In theory, a member could receive both an e-mail and a paper ballot. Since the system tracks whether someone voted, separate from their specific votes, the system will only accept the first vote received and entered into the system from that voter (but without identifying the specific voter).
Individuals renewing their membership or joining the AHA for the first time will also be allowed to vote in the election. Anyone renewing or joining before October 9, 2006, will be able to vote online or request a paper ballot. Although no paper ballots will be mailed out after October 9 (because the remaining time may be insufficient for members to receive and return the ballots to ESC before the deadline of November 1, 2006), those who renew or join before October 9 can vote online until the midnight of November 1. Every online voting session on the ESC site is encrypted through the Secure Sockets Layer technology that is used in billions of e-commerce transactions).