In August 2016, the Australian National University Students’ Association ran their Student Representative Council and National Union of Students’ Delegates elections completely online for the first time. The Association utilised Membership Solutions Ltd’s elections module which enabled the elections process to be managed through the Association’s own elections website. The move to digital resulted in the highest number of votes placed and posts filled for some five years.
The Australian National University Students’ Association (ANUSA) is the peak representative body for all undergraduate students at the University. All undergraduate students are automatically a member of ANUSA giving it a membership of some 11,000 students. The Association is responsible for advocating and furthering the interests of its members to the University, along with affording a recognised means of representation and promoting the social life of members through O-week, clubs, societies and a dedicated on-campus student space.
The starting point
In 2015, ANUSA was using a digital solution to support their student engagement objectives specifically around clubs and societies activities. However, with representation as one of its three stated pillars, the Association wanted to investigate how a digital approach could help improve engagement and participation with their annual executive, academic, department and NUS delegate elections. MSL had already demonstrated the strengths of its modular membership management system, including the online elections module, and so the decision was taken to pilot MSL Elections for the August 2016 elections.
The MSL Elections pilot
Critical to the success of the online elections pilot was the provision of a full set of undergraduate student data by the University, access to which was given after MSL and ANUSA demonstrated their security procedures and their joint commitment to guarantee that all data privacy compliance was assured.
Once all due diligence had been observed, ANUSA’s dedicated elections website was swiftly implemented during a week of preparations ahead of nominations opening. MSL ran training sessions for the ANUSA team and was on hand to assist staff with the population of nearly 40 posts, preparation for the start of voting, using real-time voting stats on the website and the all-important count stage.
An MSL project manager remained on stand-by throughout the elections period to support the ANUSA pilot and satisfy best practice requirements. Once voting opened, there was a record first day voter turnout meaning the previous year’s total would quickly be overtaken. The final votes count was run by the Returning Officer and then run again by MSL to ensure accuracy ahead of the winning candidates’ announcement.
A digital future for ANUSA and its members
The MSL Elections pilot contributed to ANUSA’s most successful elections, with all but two posts filled. Running the elections fully online with a dedicated voting website incorporating real-time voting stats meant that all members and candidates were kept up-to-date with progress and competition was encouraged amongst supporters.
- 17,131 votes were placed compared to 9749 in 2015, the previous best year.
- 22% of members voted in 2016 compared to 21% in 2015.
- Real-time voting stats monitored Gender, Academic College and Residency to encourage participation.
ANUSA has now moved more of its engagement and participation resources to the MSL System®, including clubs and societies management, messaging and feedback tools.
“Prior to using the MSL system we had paper ballot elections, which meant that students had to be on campus, during polling hours to vote.
With increasing demands on students’ time, their time on campus is becoming less and less. As such, using MSL allowed us to increase the accessibility of our elections and also to provide results of the elections in a timely manner (whilst also removing human error).
Looking towards the future, we are excited to see how we can leverage MSL to enhance our engagement with the student body, not only for elections but throughout the entire year.”
Benjamin Gill, President, ANU Students’ Association