IBMA ballots go online

The International Bluegrass Music Association has announced that all balloting for Board elections, Hall of Fame inductions and IBMA awards will be held online starting next week. They will be utilizing the eBallot interface to facilitate and tabulate votes.

Current voting members of the organization will receive information today about the new system, with an opportunity to cast a test ballot now to become familiar with the new process before IBMA Board elections open on May 13. The first round ballots for the International Bluegrass Music Awards begins on May 20.

In speaking this morning with IBMA Executive Director Dan Hays, I learned that a system is in place for those approximately 7% of voting members who do not have an email address on file.

“If we have your email address, you will be notified by email when each ballot opens. If not, you will receive a paper ballot which can be returned by mail, but will also include instructions for casting your vote online.”

Hays said that going online has several advantages for IBMA, with a substantial reduction in costs front and center.

“The cost of using the online system will be roughly the same as what we had been paying the accounting firm of Riney & Hancock to tabulate paper ballots, but we will save on printing and mailing costs. Last year we spent $12,000 on printing and postage for the awards balloting alone.”

Using eBallot also provides a high degree of security, ensuring that double voting can not occur. Each voter will have a unique user ID and password for each ballot.

“IBMA staff will still have no access to any of the data until it is complied by Riney & Hancock, but we will be able to keep track of who has and hasn’t voted, and can send out email reminders to anyone who is likely to miss the deadline. Plus it eliminates the mailing delays that can cause ballots to be lost and delayed in transit.”

Perhaps most importantly, the second and third round ballots can include audio samples and images to make considering projects more convenient for voters.

Any professional member of IBMA who does not receive a test ballot should contact the office to ensure that the email address on file is correct – or check their Spam filter to make sure future messages won’t be flagged.

My conversation with Dan also touched on the annual World Of Bluegrass in late September. He said that early registration for 2011 is running about 12% ahead of last year. That is no guarantee of expanded attendance come convention time, but it’s certainly an encouraging indicator.

Hays also pointed out that WOB will be looking for a new host site for 2013. The city of Nashville is currently building a new convention facility, the Music City Center, near the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the existing Nashville Convention Center will be converted for other uses. IBMA is looking now at other potential sites in the Nashville area, and inviting other cities to bid on multi-year contracts for the event.

“Our membership has told us that they prefer having all events under the same roof, so we will be examining bids with that in mind, but we are still open to the possibility of holding Fan Fest as an outdoor festival adjacent to the primary site. The Board should have everything in place for 2013 by this time next year.”

Full details on WOB can be found on the IBMA web site. Tickets, including new access/pricing options, go on sale June 1