The Kindergarten Teachers Union in Finland (LTOL), which is part of the Trade Union of Education in Finland (OAJ), wanted to encourage its members to start using electronic services. When its council elections were held in spring 2014, the Kindergarten Teachers Union in Finland decided to try organising them completely electronically – becoming one of the first trade unions to do so in Finland.
The system met our expectations, cooperation with Digia was very good, and all our questions were given an answer. I believe that electornic services and operating in the web will increase in the future. We want to be pioneers in arranging electornic elections.
Harri Myllynen, Union's secretary, The Kindergarten Teachers Union in Finland
When its council elections were held in spring 2014, the Kindergarten Teachers Union in Finland (LTOL) decided to try organising them completely electronically – becoming one of the first trade unions to do so in Finland. Harri Myllynen, who has long served as the union's secretary, says that the discussions had been going on for a long time.
“Ballot elections had worked well and the digitalisation of traditional approaches always involves its own challenges. On the other hand, mail-in elections are a real show every time, with their candidate lists, ballots and return envelopes, especially since we have 12 voting districts,” says Myllynen.
One reason why LTOL finally decided to proactively develop an electronic election solution was that it wanted to encourage its members to use electronic services in general. The union's online member pages provide the easiest and most accessible channel for disseminating current information, but only a small share of members had found their way there.
“With the election, we wanted to create a ‘positive obligation’ to sign in on the member site,” Myllynen says with a laugh. He adds that members could cast their votes not only with their member IDs, but also with TUPAS digital authentication, that is, online banking codes.
Myllynen says that the greatest advantages of the electronic system are its speed and ease of use.
“You can vote with your work computer, home computer, smartphone – any device,” he says.
Electronic elections also reduce the risk of human error and ambiguity. You don't have to try guessing whether the voter wrote down a one or a seven.
“Of course, an electronic system involves challenges of its own: the user interface must be really simple and clear, providing guidance to the user. We learned a great deal about how we should develop the system for the next elections,” says Myllynen.
Changing over from paper ballots to digital voting can also cause uncertainty and resistance to change among voters.
“We got feedback that members would prefer to have a real voting event with paper ballots. During electronic elections, we can organise social events at workplaces where people can vote and have coffee. Except the ballot box is a computer,” says Myllynen.
Electronic voting also significantly facilitates the work of the organisers in many stages of the process. There's no need to deal with loads of mail. And, for instance, you can push back the deadline for checking voting rights to quite close to the election; in the case of mail-in elections, several months had to be reserved for this.
“When an electronic election is held in March, new members who joined in January-February might already be eligible to vote. That said, the first time around, we didn't change this yet,” says Myllynen.
After the election is over, you don't have to spend days counting and rechecking votes. All you have to do is press enter to get the results.
Myllynen is convinced that it's worth developing and continuing with electronic elections.
“Electronic elections are the solution of the future. In spite of the challenges involved, our first try made us even more convinced that we want to be pioneers.”