Before we get to specific instructions, a few suggestions for overall best practices.
1) The vast majority of elections on this system are Open Links. That method is most appropriate for small, high-trust groups, or casual situations where there is not much at stake. The Open Link setting is the fastest and easiest way to set-up an election, and it's also fast to vote with, as a voter need only click a link to get to their ballot. Open Links do not offer any formal voter verification measures.
2) For more formal situations, the Tier 3 link method is one of our favorites. It does not require any reply codes to reach voter in-boxes. When using Tier 3 links, a voter also just clicks on the link to vote. While an Open Link URL is common to all voters, the Tier 3 link URL adds a unique set of 40 randomized characters and can only be used by a single voter once.
RCV123.org does not send out ballot emails. Many would just get stuck in spam folders - as do most emails from unfamiliar addresses. The best way for a group to reach its members is through an e-mail account both sender and receiver have used successfully before.
So in order to send group voters a Tier 3 link, the person running the election will have to A) cut and paste a unique link from RCV123 into a separate email to each voter - which should be fairly easy for a small election. Or B) for larger elections, set up an "e-mail merge" in their communications program to automate that process.
For in-person voting, we recommend either our paper ballot iPhone app, or the Tier 3 method where RCV123 generates a list of 8 to 9-character alpha-numeric codes. The app scans RCV ballots with the iPhone camera. It's very fast to print, scan and tabulate an in-person election.
To use Tier 3 codes for an in-person election, we suggest copying the codes for that election (500 max) from RCV123, and pasting them into a document. Add a few spaces between each code, print the list onto a few sheets of paper, cut them up, and hand each voter a section with one unique, one-time use code to use from their phone or laptop. The codes must be entered by each voter before they can get to their ballot.
3) Elections on RCV123 are only as secure as the combination of the people managing an election (who have access to the capabilities of the Election Dashboard), the policies and procedures the Election Administrators implement, and the behavior of the voters themselves.
4) We recommend every election with something at stake be managed by several trustworthy members selected by the group holding the vote. These trusted members should agree on election policies in advance, share Election Dashboard information and access with each other, and jointly make any decisions to allow or disallow any specific provisional or regular ballots. It's crucial that groups using RCV123 ensure their elections are administered according to the expectations of group members.
We designed this site so the necessary instructions are shown as you proceed through the election set-up process. First you choose an overall election method, and then more instructions are given as you set-up specific ballots for that election. The information below is intended to broaden those instructions.
Tier 1-4 methods have an Election Dashboard. Each account has a top-level dashboard to view all of the Tier-1-4 elections set-up under that account. One can then click through to a dashboard to see a table with a record of every vote in a specific election. A specific voter's choices cannot be viewed in the dashboard.
The purpose of an Election Dashboard is to double-check and manage who votes. A dashboard is also where you can close the voting for some elections, as well as delete past elections.
For a Tier 1 election, an administrator can ask for voters to input their names. Any names that are input that do not match group records, for example, can be excluded from the count. If in a Tier 3 election a link is sent to a person who is later found to no longer be a member of the group, but they voted anyway, that vote can be disallowed in the Election Dashboard. Also, any vote where the voter screening system did not function properly, a provisional ballot can be cast. Provisional votes are initially marked as "?" in the dashboard and would not be included in the vote totals. Using the dashboard, an Election Administrator can accept or reject a provisional vote from the vote tally.
Top-level Account Dashboard:
In Tiers 1-4, Election Administrators have a choice of whether to ask voters to input their first and last names or not. Names are not confirmed in any way, and a voter can input anything or leave the fields blank. For lower tiers, asking a voter input their name may help the process of double-checking voter information on the dashboard. However, when Tier 3 links, codes or Member IDs are used, there may not be a benefit for the Election Administrator to so easily view a name that corresponds to a cast vote. As with all the choices setting up an election on RCV123, there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and each of the choices has a trade-off.
We strongly recommend Election Administrators set-up small test elections and obtain a few votes on whatever types of devices and in whatever type of situation the vote will be conducted - in person or remote, on phones, on shared computers, on individual laptops, or on a K-12 school or college email system. RCV123 is a free service, so there's no reason not to set up as many test elections as you want and give them a try.
In the US, not everyone is used to the concept of a multi-winner, ranked election. Think of it as selecting five candidates for equal seats on a non-profit's Board of Directors out of perhaps 20 contenders. This is different from having, for example, one seat on the board for each of five regions, and having a separate ranked-choice election for each specific regional board seat. There are a lot of subtle differences to consider. Follow this LINK to two classic videos explaining single-winner and multi-winner ranked choice.