The Coalition for a Democratic Workplace this week unveiled a report discussing the harms of online voting in union elections. The report details the history, facts and misconceptions while detailing the net harms that such a policy shift would have on workplaces and the integrity of union elections.
The report first details how such a policy shift would divorce from NLRB precedents that have consistently upheld the importance of in-person elections. It points to the NLRB’s Casehandling Manual for Representation Proceedings which “demonstrates the extensive control, monitoring and safeguards that are uniquely available when voters physically appear for the purpose of casting votes in a manual secret-ballot election.” By expanding online voting, these safeguards would dissipate.
The dismantling of these safeguards very easily ties into the next two points that the report makes while discussing its concern of online voting. First, there is a greater risk for coercion and fraud as union organizers could easily bribe or intimidate voters to vote for unionization on the spot. Without physical voting safeguards, very few mechanisms would be able to sufficiently protect workers them from these unethical pressures placed on them before they get to cast a vote. Additionally, the report notes that the difficulty with auditing online elections and lack of guaranteed security from an online system will create uncertainty regarding these elections. Fraud and revelations of the workers’ votes are much more likely with the vulnerabilities present in an online system. This reality could also sway workers’ votes who fear retaliation if their votes are revealed.
Finally, the report notes that to minimize all these harms would be quite costly. While popular belief is that switching from a physical means of voting to a digital one could present a cheaper alternative, the development and upkeep of an online voting system is more expensive than a physical presence. The report notes that this “high cost-per-vote of ensuring cybersecurity” is the exact reason why Australia turned away from using online voting machines in their own country.
The facts and arguments detailed within the Coalition’s report outlines the damages that will result from switching to online voting systems for union elections. The NLRB and Congress should resist any efforts to switch to such a costly and risky model.