Do we really have to count the votes by hand?
March 17, 2006 3:33 PM   Subscribe

How do you count votes for "Best of the City" contest?

We're a new newspaper, wanting to do one of those "Best of the City" voting polls. You know, the contests that allow people to vote for the Best Doctor, or Bakery or Politics etc in a city.

We'd like to be able to have people vote online. What software would you recommend that would keep ballot stuffing to a minimum while still allowing the greatest number of people to easily vote? Does anyone know what the alt weeklies use to count up online?

Is online voting even feasible? It seems like it would be easy to hack.

Barring online voting, is there a standard form of tallying votes where the ballot might contain a hundred entries, each with different handwritten entries? Any suggestions?
posted by anonpeon to Society & Culture (3 answers total)
When I last worked for a newspaper, we actually had a mix of paper ballots and online ballots (and as tallier of the hand ballots, I must say, it's a hellous job.) What we wound up doing was making a standard submission form and tying that in with the hand ballots that were tallied up in Access.

The thing is, I found, is that people are going to put in many varieties of the same basic votes, so you'll eventually have to hand-check the online ballots at some point.

Good luck. It's a tough ordeal to go through, but worth the extra advertising revenue it brings in.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 3:52 PM on March 17, 2006

For online ballots, I would set up a weighted system.

Whoever comes in first online gets 50 ballots added to their tally.
Whoever comes in second gets 25 ballots added.
Whoever comes in third gets 10 ballots added.

That way, if the ballot gets stuffed, it doesn't overrun your legitimate votes.
posted by Jairus at 5:44 PM on March 17, 2006

My SO has experience in this. Here's her statement:
There is a company called Snap Survey Software that can do this for you ('tis a for-profit corporation, natch). Personally, I have only used it for PDA surveys, but it was originally built to publish surveys to websites. You have the option to create questions, design answers as multiple choices, essays, either/or, etc., mark as many questions as you want as "must answer", check responses against others, route questions to follow ups, and a host of other survey design applications. It also compiles the data for you, can produce custom reports, and creates nifty graphs and charts. Data options can be sorted by each survey completed, by each question, or on all responses as a whole. I believe you also have the option to import a PDF and use it for the survey, so if your production department has already created the ballot, set up would be relatively simple.

As far as the dead tree versions that will invariably come in, the best thing to do is to assign one person (or a few) to enter these directly through the website. That way they are checking for stuffing and you have all your data in one place. Absolutely keep the paper ballots as back up, though.

Another suggestion is to delegate who is in charge of what process from start to finish. If you are on the sales side of the business, involve the editorial side in everything, since this will ultimately be their baby.

If you'd like to get contact info for Snap and do more a bit more brain picking, contact ufez. The small novel above is just the beginnings of a "Best of City" process.
BTW, the SO is not employed by Snap or any of its affiliates. This is anecdotal.
posted by Ufez Jones at 8:18 PM on March 17, 2006

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