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Canadian Investment Group RFID-Enables Shareholder Elections

Fonds de solidarité FTQ is using EPC tags and readers to automate the counting and weighting of votes, to speed up the election process and eliminate the risk of errors.
By Claire Swedberg
Dec 06, 2011Montreal investment organization Fonds de solidarité FTQ is employing radio frequency identification to reduce the amount of time and labor that its employees spend counting ballots at its annual shareholders general-assembly meeting and elections. The RFID-enabled voting ballots are read by an interrogator in the back room of the meeting site, to automatically tally each vote and its value (the vote's weight being based on the quantity of shares owned by the voter). In this way, counting and calculating the value of votes for Fonds' board members or officers can now be performed in mere seconds by two individuals (previously, this task required 20 people at least 20 minutes to accomplish). The system is provided by Academia RFID, a Montreal training facility and applied-research center.

More importantly, says Linda Call, the lead sponsor of Fonds de solidarité FTQ's RFID project, employing an RFID solution rather than a manual count method ensures that no mistakes are made.

Fonds de solidarité FTQ's Linda Call (left) and Josée Legault

Fonds de solidarité FTQ is a development-capital organization for the Fédération des travailleurs du Québec (FTQ)—the Quebec Federation of Labor—the province's largest labor group. Fonds de solidarité's mission is to create and save jobs in Quebec, by investing in small and midsize businesses. The organization, which has 583,000 shareholders, manages CAN$8.2 billion (US$8.1 billion) worth of assets for those shareholders. Every September, the group holds an assembly meeting that includes shareholder elections, at which time officers or board members are elected or re-elected.

Typically, approximately 2,000 shareholders attend the general assembly each year, placing votes for board members, treasurer, president or other officers, explains Josée Legault, the director of administration for Fonds' trust division. They do so by turning in preprinted ballots, which are then gathered by Fonds' staff and are counted in a back room. Workers must not only count the number of votes, but also use a computer to calculate each vote's value, based on the the number of shares owned by each voter. Other employees then check their work. Vote accuracy is more important than count efficiency, Legault notes, stating, "We must be accurate for our shareholders." The wait for results while this took place, as well as the risk of errors, prompted Fonds de solidarité FTQ's management to seek an automated solution for the vote-tallying process. The organization's director of IT, who had previously met with Academia RFID to consider RFID technology, requested an RFID-enabled voting system for its September 2011 assembly.

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