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POLYAS case study: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

POLYAS case study: Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)

The constituted student body of the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT)—the largest university in Baden-Württemberg—elected its student parliament and student councils online with POLYAS in July 2020 and increased voter turnout significantly. For the KIT, online voting was the only option to organize and carry out the election in the short term  despite all the restrictions due to the pandemic.

A quorum despite corona

Any election at KIT must be announced at least 48 days in advance. There is much to organize, such as submitting electoral lists, finding supporters and creating the ballot papers, which are eventually cast into a sealed ballot box. The corona requirements caused the KIT presence election planned for March 16, 2020 to be canceled.

A basis had to be created for conducting the election despite corona.

Furthermore, the canceled election was to be a repeat election due to discrepancies in a previous ballot. Three student councils and the student parliament had to be re-elected. Because of the delay, it was decided to combine the repeat election with the next regular election of the student parliament and councils.

Robin Otto-Tuti, head of the student council for economics at the time of the election and a member of the student parliament executive committee, reports:

“At first we considered a postal vote instead of the ballot box. But the question then was, how do we put 25,000 ballot papers in envelopes under corona restrictions and process the response? And then there would be the manual vote counting. Also, at that time we were not allowed to use our official rooms. That’s why we decided for online voting.”

Do you wish to carry out an election at your university? A few steps is all it takes to create your election in the POLYAS Online Voting Manager:

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POLYAS is partner for the online voting at KIT

A contact at the German national student union conference (BuFaTa) recommended POLYAS to the KIT as a partner for the online voting. The University of Jena, which has a long history of working with POLYAS, offered additional guidance to help clarify the technical details. Required options included panachage and cumulative voting so that, for example, voters could cast several votes for one candidate. A further challenge for the KIT was to motivate eligible voters to vote online. The decision was to go for POLYAS Online Voting with votes being cast by SecureLink. This procedure enables eligible voters to login with their usual university-account credentials: They were then forwarded to the online voting system via SecureLink. 

Find out how here >

Being able to receive an e-mail and then cast a vote with a click of the mouse was, as far as I could see, a clear opportunity to increase voter turnout significantly,”  says Valentin Haas, head of the electoral committee for the online election at the KIT at the time of the election

POLYAS TIPP: You can also nominate your candidates online before an election - with the POLYAS Nomination Platform: Learn more now!

Voter turnout doubled

Using the POLYAS Online Voting System, 21,918 eligible voters were able to exercise their voting rights on 18 digital ballot papers. Relatively little organizational effort was required for the KIT to set up the election, as Valentin Haas explains:

“For us on the electoral committee, supporting large numbers of voters is a major effort. Up front, we have to make sure that all the necessary documents are submitted, but the election itself did not involve any further work from us. The template to be filled out was self-explanatory, so the ballot papers were created for us. One or two voter groups were pre-defined already—that made the whole process a lot easier. "

Robin Otto-Tuti adds:

“Many students gave me feedback about how much easier it was to vote online. We used to have to offer a free coffee or ice cream to motivate voters to go to the ballot box. They received all the information about the election by e-mail and they could vote from the comfort of their own home, so we had a significantly higher voter turnout with an increase from around 10% to 20.1%.”

The automatic vote counting after the online election was a bonus in view of the corona restrictions.

Manual vote counting would have taken at least a day with 50–100 helpers and would simply not have been possible under the corona restrictions.”  says Robin Otto-Tuti

Valentin Haas: “In terms of usability, I would go for online voting straight away.”