The Churches of God Eastern Regional conference is no stranger to the democratic process, having conducted annual voting sessions along with other regional denominations for many years. Until 2022, the conference has historically relied on traditional paper ballots, which required each vote to be tallied by hand. While this method of voting allowed participants to vote anonymously and prevent “herd mentality”, keeping the results fair and accurate, it can also be an incredibly slow and tedious process that comes with its own slew of problems. Having recognized the limitations of manual vote-counting, the conference decided to revolutionize their voting with the help of Meridia’s EZ-VOTE keypads and TownVOTE software, bringing their democratic process into the 21st century and making paper ballots a thing of the past. The change culminated in their 2022 meeting where they used electronic voting for the first time to vote on new council members, as well as a large vote for a delegation of people they plan to send to their national conference.
After the pandemic hit in 2020, the conference began investigating ways to vote electronically due to not being able to meet in person. One of these solutions included conducting the meeting through a Zoom webinar and voting through Google Docs. While this worked as a short-term solution, the voting was cumbersome and lacked security. This eventually led to the discovery of audience response systems, with Meridia’s TownVOTE and other solutions being considered as potential options. Ultimately, the Eastern Regional Conference chose Meridia for their prompt support along with the option to rent the system instead of making a full purchase. “Meridia was far and above more economical and easier to work with, and we were able to rent the clickers instead of purchasing them.” -(Colleen Gross)
Prior to using electronic solutions, counting the votes was a long, tedious process that wasn’t always reliable. “We did paper ballots, and it took hours– especially with this particular season of voting for a delegation of people to send to our national conference. Then, sometimes, there would even need to be a revote.” -(Colleen Gross) Despite the difficulties of manual vote counting, some voters were apprehensive at first about using the system. With the help of Meridia support, the conference ran a “trial vote” on the first day of the session, where participants were able to quickly familiarize themselves with the simple layout of the keypads. “Going into the second day was seamless, everybody knew what they were doing and it worked out beautifully.” -(Colleen Gross) When it came time for the official vote, it only took forty five minutes to achieve a clear ballot; less than half the time of manually counting paper ballots. The Churches of God Eastern Regional Conference plans to continue using the system in the future for voting and automatic roll call.