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The CDU elected its chairman online with POLYAS

POLYAS case study: Digital CDU party conference

On January 15 and 16, 2021, the German political party, the CDU, held their first digital party conference. The live voting was carried out jointly by POLYAS and the Deutsche Telekom subsidiary T-Systems, which acted as general contractor. T-Systems hosted the digital voting on their Open Telekom Cloud, which POLYAS has used since 2018 to host their online voting system.

The decision by the CDU

Originally planned for December 2020, the CDU party conference could not take place due to the corona pandemic. However, since the party intended to elect a new leader, it considered various ways of implementation and opted for POLYAS and Live Voting. Dr. Stefan Hennewig, national managing director of the CDU, said:

“I think we can say: It was the right decision. The digital implementation set new standards.”

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Elections and the law

The legal basis for digital elections in Germany is the Political Parties Act. However, this law states that digital party conferences can only hold a “digital preliminary ballot” and that it must be linked with a binding vote by ballot box or postal vote. For this reason, the election of January 16, 2021 was subsequently confirmed by the delegates with a postal vote. The candidates Armin Laschet, Friedrich Merz and Norbert Röttgen all agreed in advance that they would accept the winner of the digital vote. They also decided that only the winner of the online election should be placed on the postal vote. And so Armin Laschet was officially appointed leader of the CDU on January 22, 2021.

CDU delegates received Live Voting positively

Carrying out such a large project required precise project planning in advance. On the day of the event itself, all factors must come together in such a way that they complement one another.

The hosting- and live-stream partners worked together with the CDU to run through various risk scenarios in advance. Ultimately the party had a flexible plan of action and was prepared for all possible contingencies. The CDU also had a wide range of information for the 1,001 delegates. There were video tutorials, a service hotline, step-by-step instructions and three technical test runs with all delegates. For the CDU it was important that all delegates could join in the party conference without problems, regardless of their age.

In all, six ballots were carried out with POLYAS. General Secretary Paul Ziemiak said during the live stream that there was a high turnout for every vote. He added that voter turnout at previous party conferences usually tailed off, as many delegates had to leave to go home. This was where the POLYAS Live Voting of course offered an enormous advantage, as every delegate could cast their vote from home. Dr. Stefan Hennewig, national managing director of the CDU, said after the voting:

“Future party conferences will no longer be held offline only. Going forward, we will make greater use of hybrid formats so that everyone can take part and, at the same time, this will promote digital thinking at party conferences. However, legal regulations will have to be adapted to allow for this."

Widespread media coverage of the Live Voting

This party conference drew special interest from the media: Not only was it about finding the successor to Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, it was also about a potential candidate for Chancellor with a view to the general election in September 2021. But the online voting itself also met with broad media interest. Examples of media coverage included Spiegel Online, the HNATagesschau24 and the politics podcast “Lage der Nation", all of whom reported on the digital voting with POLYAS.

The CDU decided to use Live Voting so that their ballots could take place despite the pandemic. If you too want to go digital and conduct your elections despite the pandemic, then take a look at our Online Voting Manager today.