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Public voting is voting on a matter of interest open to all members of the public, rather than individuals within a specific organization or group. It provides a mechanism for feedback on issues of importance and can be used in several ways in the financial world. This term is sometimes used to refer to shareholder voting, where companies put certain matters up to the shareholders for discussion and voting, although any member of the public does not have a vote in these cases, as this is a right only open to shareholders.
In the case of true public voting, companies can use public voting in a variety of ways. It can offer companies a chance to interact directly with the public, giving everyone a chance to weigh in on topics of interest and creating more interest in the company's activities. For example, a company could run a charity voting drive, where members of the public could vote on which causes the company should support. The company will select a list of approved charitable causes and let consumers decide, rather than use an internal metric to allocate charitable funds.
It can also be useful for soliciting feedback on new products and services. Companies may use public voting to ask members of the public which products the company should produce next, or to vote on options within a product line like colors and flavors. In addition to allowing the company to tailor its offerings, this also increases public engagement with the company. Potential customers may be more inclined to buy products when they know they can vote on the company's product lines, or could become interested in products they voted on, increasing the chances that they will make more purchases.
With shareholder votes, true public voting is not present because it is necessary to own shares to cast a vote. When companies schedule votes, they send out materials to all currently registered shareholders to provide information on the matter. The materials can also include forms to fill out and return or shareholders can vote online, depending on how the company conducts votes. Members of the public with an interest in a company's activities can buy shares to be able to participate in votes. Some social welfare organizations like those concerned with the treatment of workers and farm animals use this technique to lean on companies and change their policies, buying enough shares to have a major voting block in shareholder elections.