How to collect signatures during a pandemic? Why and how to check them? How to organize the work of volunteers? How to meet the deadlines? The team of Viktar Babaryka shares their unique experience and tools that helped to set the Belarusian score in the number of collected signatures for an alternative nominee.
Where did it all start?
At the time of the establishment of the initiative group, Viktar Babaryka did not have a large team. It is noteworthy that, at first glance, a difficult task was solved with the help of such a simple and convenient tool as Google Forms. The result – Viktar Babaryka’s initiative group has become the largest among alternative nominees: 8904 signature collectors have been registered!
Stage One: Signature Collection
We had 8904 courageous and active participants in the initiative group and 30 days to collect signatures. The first tool that our team created is a Telegram bot with extensive functionality. With the help of this instrument, we gave recommendations to the members of the initiative group on all possible issues: how to fill out the form correctly, where to hand over the collected signatures, how better contact your family, friends or colleagues with a proposal to put a signature. The bot provided us with feedback: the collectors informed us about the number of collected signatures as quickly as possible. In order to make the process more interesting, we even came up with special roles for members of the initiative group:
However, we faced a challenge – the situation with coronavirus in the country. Therefore, we developed “PICK IT”-bot based on Uber concept. This assistant connected those who wanted to leave a signature with the members of the initiative group who were ready to come at any time at any place. This chatbot is very popular, it turned out to be an extremely convenient tool not only for people on self-isolation, but also for those who could not come to the picket.
Stage two: verification of signatures
Why signatures need to be verified? There are more than 140 district electoral commissions. One signature sheet should contain the signatures of citizens of only one district. Forms are submitted in batches sorted by district into each district electoral commission separately. Moreover, the presence of even 5.25% of defects is a sufficient reason to cancel all forms submitted to the electoral commission.
Therefore, our goal was not just the submission of signatures, but the provision of absolutely perfect, flawless forms. The forms that will not give the Central Electoral Commission (CEC) even the slightest reason to refuse us. For this, our team came up with a verification system that includes four steps:
- Sorting. At first, we sorted the forms into districts. We assigned each district with its electoral commission a serial number (more than 140 districts). Our programmers developed a service that helped volunteers group forms by districts. At this stage, erroneous forms were also screened out (poorly printed, with data errors, etc.)
- Verification. At this stage, each form was checked manually, it was assigned a separate number, and the number of flawless signatures was counted. By the way, the communication channel for verifiers was called: “IMPECCABLE”. Every type of error in the form was entered into the database, and each member of the initiative group was assigned a rating. The team of our developers constantly modified and improved the program, tried different approaches and methods. Our volunteers worked in three shifts. “HEROES!” – Viktar says about them whenever he passes by.
- Additional verification and correction. We double-checked every erroneous or suspicious form. Our lawyers contacted the CEC to clarify all legal issues.
- Dispatch of signature forms to the CEC. Our team attached a cover letter to each package of forms with information about the number and affiliation of signatures on each form.
More than 150 volunteers have been involved at all stages of verification, and their number is growing every day.
We are incredibly inspired by the willingness of so many people to come to the assistance. Among these wonderful citizens were volunteers, whom we literally asked to go home after finishing the work. We are sure that with such people in Belarus we can not only win the elections, but also build a better country.
We will win together!