Elections are a complicated process. From voting to counting ballots, avoiding even the possibility of fraud...the involvement of Russia…um, wait a minute. We’re getting ahead of ourselves here. In the context of a homeowners’ association or condo building, electing —or re-electing—a board is probably one of the most important exercises resident owners can engage in on behalf of their community. After all, board members are the ones who make the crucial decisions about how their building is run, from maintenance schedules to major capital improvements.
Most board members are elected by their neighbors. For example, Mr. Smith runs for a spot on the board, and residents like Mrs. Jones vote for him. However, the process often raises questions among candidates and voting residents alike about what the proper procedures are, when everyone must be notified of an upcoming election, and the use of proxy ballots. While the process may seem complicated at times, it doesn’t have to be. Let’s break it down.
First, the election for the board of directors or board of managers is generally held at the annual meeting for the corporation of condominiums. “Each community will need to follow their state statutes and governing documents, such as the bylaws, as we have seen some documents even call for a semi-annual election,” says Ruth Ingoldsby of Vote HOA Now in Tigard, Oregon. “Ultimately the board has a fiduciary duty to the association, which includes doing what is necessary to have a fair election.”
An election process also differs from region to region and state to state. Some buildings use paper ballots, while others use online voting. Choosing the election method depends on the building and, of course, their bylaws. However, it seems that many boards are changing their voting to online-only and getting rid of paper altogether. “Florida, for example, has already changed their bylaws to go online, but their statute is much different than New York voting,” says Linda Gibbs, President of the Floral Park, New York-based Honest Ballot Association, which handles private elections all over the country with condos, co-ops, and associations. “So many people that want to vote need to vote, and yet they don’t have the opportunity, like homebound residents. However, nowadays, the elderly are using Skype or using their phones.”
A Florida board wishing to implement online voting must have the owners’ consent, and have a method to verify the identity of the voters and ensure the secrecy of election ballots,” says Lisa Magill, Of Counsel at Kaye Bender Rembaum, which has offices in Pompano Beach and Palm Beach Gardens. They must then test the system at least 14 days before the election, ensuring that owners’ computers, smartphones or other devices can communicate directly with the tabulation system. According to Magill, whatever system is used, it must authenticate the voter’s identity, ensure that the vote wasn’t modified or altered in transit, give a receipt to the voter, separate the identity of the voter from the vote itself, and keep the actual votes accessible for future inspections or audits.