NRMA hopes that by giving its members more choice in the way they vote it will increase member participation in the election. Mary Easson, NRMA deputy president, said she would consider the new process a real success if the NRMA can attract over 12 per cent voter participation.
Apart from the 1999 election - with high numbers of voters turning out (a 23 per cent response rate) due to strong feelings over the issue of demutalisation -- the most recent board member elections have drawn around 12 per cent voter participation. According to Easson, a rate higher than 12 per cent is achievable with the introduction of online voting because of the "curiosity factor".
The entire election process will be outsourced to election.com, including responsibility for tabulating all of the NRMA's online votes as well as scanning through the paper ballots. election.com was involved in the US elections last year where it facilitated the Arizona Democratic Party's Primary Preference votes online. On the local front, it carried out the online elections for the Australian Information Industry Association several months ago.
election.com country manager Frank Nesci said the voting system is designed to prevent multiple voting. NRMA's members will be issued with a secret PIN (personal identification number) to access the online ballot. To ensure against multiple voting, the election.com voting system voids a member's PIN immediately after the vote is cast. If a paper ballot is later received from a member that has already cast a vote, the system will only count the first vote received.
To protect voter's privacy, Nesci said their identity and actual vote selection are encrypted and separated at the member's PC "in a manner that prevents them from being rejoined at the election.com server". This measure, it is argued, helps to ensure that neither election.com nor NRMA is able to determine the way in which a member voted.
The election is set for sometime in September and will run for about a month. Members can cast their votes - on paper or online -- anytime during that time period.