Friday, April 02, 2021

Survey shows sharp divide among OKGOP delegates over electronic convention voting

The 2021 Oklahoma Republican Party State Convention will be held on Saturday, April 10th, and a new system of voting seems to be stirring up some controversy among the delegates.

For decades, voting at the State Convention has been done in person and with paper ballots. Last year changed all of that, due to the coronavirus turmoil. I have not attended a state convention in several years, so my knowledge of the particulars is based on conversations with individuals who did attend. The 2020 state convention was held virtually via Zoom, which resulted in significantly reduced participation and some technical struggles that often plague events of this size when thrown together without adequate preparation or training.

This year, the convention will be held in person -- but voting will be done through an online program. Delegates are expected to bring their own electronic device in order to participate.

Needless to say, this is a significant development in the OKGOP, and one that is going to be contested. In conversations with a fellow church member recently, I was told that several older delegates from their county won't be attending this year as they do not own smartphones or laptops, which would be required to vote with. This "technology divide" will likely hit hardest among senior citizen and rural delegates (in other words, a significant position of the usual delegate makeup).

I was forwarded the results of an email survey that was recently conducted, sent out to all registered delegates, regarding the convention's online voting system. Nearly 20% of the around 1,800 delegates responded to the survey, giving us a good sample size to consider.

OKGOP Preconvention Survey Results

The largest age demographic, by far, is the 65+ range. Add in the 55-64 group and you have a hair over two-thirds of respondents.

This year's convention will be in-person only, something that the overwhelming majority of delegates surveyed find satisfactory. Last year's convention was virtual, thus requiring an online voting system, but an in-person convention has never to my knowledge used anything but a paper ballot.

I served on the executive and state committees (both for a time) between 2009 and 2015. During that period there was some discussion once or twice about using a different voting system, almost like a gameshow with provided handheld devices, but nothing came of it. According to emails from the OKGOP, the "Executive Committee and State Committee both approved [the use of this system] for last year's convention"... but no vote seems to have been held to approve the use of it for this year and there is even some question over whether an actual quorum was met for the 2020 committee vote. 

Here we start to get into the meat of the issue. When asked if they agree with the planned use of online voting with no paper backup at the state convention, 54% of delegates surveyed said 'no'. When starting a convention off with a brand new and unfamiliar voting system, this is set up for failure. One of the first items of business will be approving convention rules -- which arguably must include language regarding the use of this new system. Could the online voting system be disapproved even before the regular convention business begins? If these responses indicate anything, then it's a definite possibility.

Using this system will require each delegate to have a smartphone, tablet, or laptop connected to internet at the convention. If your device's battery dies during the convention, will the delegate be unable to vote? This assumes 1) that each delegate has a smartphone, tablet, or laptop, and 2) that they have a data plan or that the convention venue's wifi will be adequate for potentially eight to twelve hundred delegates.

Emails from the state party do note the issue for those who do not own the required electronic devices. There will be "a section at Convention SPECIFICALLY for folks who don't have an email or device for our IT Team to assist them in the voting process." The party also has or will be holding training sessions on using the system -- for those who are able to access such online resources.

95% of delegates agreed that there should be some sort of verification process that those voting with the online system are physically present at the convention.

If you've never been to a state convention, these events take most of the day and there can be multiple rounds of voting throughout the day. For example, there will be elections for new state chair and vice chair, as well as rules amendents and the party platform, and initial votes on accepting convention rules and credentials reports. The longer the day drags on (especially with floor fights and credentialing issues), the more delegates leave before the end of business. This is not necessarily an issue whenever paper ballots are being used, but if the requirement is to be present but the platform for voting is online, there could be some problems very easily.

My anecodotal conversation at church about folks skipping the convention over the online voting might not be so anecdotal after all. Nearly a quarter of respondents indicate that the prospect of an online voting system is a discouraging factor about the state convention. 38% said that they are excited about the new system, though that is slightly less than the percentage of delegates who said they were in favor of using the system. A slight plurality gave no answer, though some left comments at the conclusion of the survey (more of which were negative to the idea than positive).

A strong plurality, nearly an outright majority, of those surveyed would prefer to use paper ballots. There is a significant minority, slightly more than one-third, who wish to use the online ballot, but as with the previous question noted above, the support for the online system here is less than the 45% who agreed earlier with the use of this voting platform. 

This seems to indicate that there is a sizeable group that will grudgingly go along with the online voting system, but would prefer to use paper ballots -- and might support the almost-sure effort by some to oust the online voting at the start of the convention.

Respondents were asked to leave comments and concerns at the conclusion of the survey. Here are a few samples:
  • I support anything that makes the process faster
  • As a State Committee member, I thought last year's vote to allow on-line voting was to allow for the convention to conduct business for last year only due to the "pandemic". In my opinion the rules for voting at State Convention were not permanently changed.
  • I am a new delegate. There have been issues with being able to register for the convention. There have also been issues with being able to register for and attend the training. This has been a hassle and is concerning to me.
  • Very poorly organized. Gala and registration fee to expensive, many will not be able to attend due to the cost.
  • Are computers going to be available there at the Convention for ability to vote for those who do not have one to bring?
  • We have been shown, in emphatic fashion, the dangers associated with online voting. It is a RINO deal and very insulting. It will be a one and done after the election.
  • There is so much confusion on the online voting that I’m afraid the results will be grossly incorrect. Also the people will lose interest in attending the conventions. We attended two training sessions & it moved so fast, complaints were all that we heard. I’m almost in that mode as well. We will probably attend one more training session.
  • I am concerned we are moving too quickly toward electronic voting after setting in on 2 training sessions. I am not confident the voters can respond fast enough on unfamiliar devices during the convention.
  • Does the $45 fee include a cash bar?
  • Did we not learn a lesson about electronic voting in the last presidential election? No one is happy with it.
  • $45 registration fee may discourage some delegates from attending.
  • I am not for online voting for any election, not even our State Convention. We need paper back up for all votes to be able to verify accuracy should there be any question or recount needed. Online voting has caused more than enough problems this past year. We don't need any part of online voting.
  • On-line voting does not deter me from fulfilling my responsibility to those who "SENT" me to represent their will. I am not excited about an on-line system. We allow technology to complicate a simple process. I don't mind answering the question. I will add this (humorous) comment: The Republican Party IS the party of the rich. One must have a cell phone and an e-mail account to be a "good" Republican.
  • I have little confidence in online voting. The party has had multiple "glitches" when attempting anything using technology oriented. I am concerned that this is being pushed too fast and there has not been adequate time for training of us the voters and of those administering the program. I have little confidence in this system.
  • I just have concerns that data can be changed in the back as I know this is possible from leading my CD3 convention using this program. Between the programmers and whoever is giving them directions, anything can be done in the back. With all the fraud that is going on. Without everyone having an eye on the background the “facts” might not be the facts.
  • I am concerned that my device will run out of power, and that I will not have a way to recharge and continue voting
  • We used the online voting last year along with a zoom call and wanted the same option for this year. Liked how it sped up the voting process and felt it was safe and efficient.
  • I am against online voting for several reasons, but it does not deter me from attending. This is a very important Convention which affects the future of our State GOP and its important that we get it right.
  • I have several concerns with the online voting. I understand the need to use that system last year due to the pandemic. Our platform specifically states '6. We support a requirement that each vote cast in all elections be documented by paper.' It's completely hypocritical to not require that integrity for our internal elections.
  • The electronic process is far more superior and absolutely more secure than paper balloting. As a former computer security person in the Air Force I totally approve and agree with the online balloting process.
So there you have it. Feel free to drop a comment with your take on the issue.

1 comment:

  1. The Party rules require a roll call vote which is a recorded vote that is submitted by the executive director of the county at the convention (the county chairman). Convention rules cannot override this or any other GOP Party Bylaw. If they had added a vote on changing the bylaws it cannot take effect until AFTER the election.


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