Reticence. It’s a fancy word that means a “reluctance to speak about something” and reticence is often the last thing that a board wants to encounter when asking voters to speak their minds.
This is true whether it’s a school board, a board of directors, or the board of a club, a business or housing cooperative, or some other entity build around cooperative principles that might traditionally make decisions based on acclamation or show-of-hands votes. The members of your organization may have very strong feelings about different proposals on the table—but if they’re expected to step up and say that—and they’re not comfortable doing that—then your board may be asking the wrong questions or heading towards a situation where members feel disenfranchised.
It’s not just that voters have stage fright when it comes to speaking up front of a crowd. Voters simply don’t always want others to know how they feel—as in the situation where two people in a housing co-op are close friends and one of them is running for a board position, but the other honestly thinks that someone else would be better suited for that board position (yet doesn’t want to hurt their friend’s feelings by publicly supporting the friend’s rival). Or, the board could be seeking a response on a matter that is very sensitive or personal, and those affected may simply not feel comfortable talking about the matter openly.
Voting on matters using an electronic voting system configured for anonymity provides a way for an organization to overcome voter reticence. When voters can cast their votes or respond anonymously to questions from the board, their reticence falls away. They can speak up, as it were, while remaining silent. They need not worry that that votes will hurt a friend, cause others to look at them in a different way, or create a conflict that may blow up later in unpredictable ways. The organization holding the vote gains a much more honest count of member opinions, too, which means that the organization is more likely to stay on a track that is going to conform with the opinions of the greatest number of people.