As of the moment of this writing, we are in the thick of vote counting in our national election, with allegations of fraud, cheating, and mishandling ballots running rampant. On the flip side are allegations of voter intimidation and ballot counting intimidation. While these stories surely affect all of us in different ways, even though occurring at a national or state level, unfortunately we oftentimes see the same allegations at a very local level – in community associations!
Enter the election and ballot counting processes for community associations, which are necessarily compounded by restrictions on personal attendance due to COVID-19. Due to COVID-19, nearly 100% of our clients are conducting their annual meetings virtually – most of them by video conference. While virtual meetings are entirely acceptable, there are still certain legal requirements to keep in mind that may result in conducting annual meetings in more than one phase so as to protect election integrity.
When speaking about annual meetings, generally we are contemplating elections of directors and in somewhat fewer instances, budget consideration. There may be other matters that your community is taking action on at your meeting, such as document amendments. In any event, there are a few things to keep in mind with respect to voting, as set out in CCIOA:
- votes for contested positions on the executive board shall be taken by secret ballot;
- at the discretion of the board, or upon the request of 20% of the owners who are present in person or by proxy at the meeting (if a quorum has been achieved), any other matter on which owners are entitled to vote must be by secret ballot;
- ballots must be counted by a neutral third party or by a committee of volunteers. The volunteers must be owners who are selected or appointed at an open meeting, in a fair manner, by the chair of the board or by another person presiding during that portion of the meeting. Volunteers must not be board members, and in the case of a contested election for a board position, must not be candidates;
- the results of a vote taken by secret ballot must be reported without reference to the names, addresses, or other identifying information of unit owners participating in the vote; and
- votes allocated to a unit may be cast by a proxy signed by the unit owner. Proxies are not valid if obtained through fraud or misrepresentation.
The techniques to achieve these requirements can vary, but there are some standards that have become widely accepted. If you have any questions about how to comply with these requirements and protect the integrity of your meetings and elections, please feel free to give us a call.