By: Ana Sanchez Rivero, CAM
A few years back we attended an Annual Meeting and Election for a homeowner association that ran until 5:00 a.m. Yes that’s right, 5 a.m.! That was despite the fact that there were two (2) attorneys present. Some of the board members for that association may even be reading this blog and can attest that it was a challenging evening. The big reason why it went so long? The association was also voting on a few proposed amendments to their governing documents. In addition, the association also has more than 450 units. Our mistake was not anticipating such a high turn out and we only had 2 people registering the owners for the annual meeting and the amendment vote.
There were also some questions over the legality of some of the proxies that were presented. It was so challenging that not even the attorneys present could provide an answer. In the end it was agreed, at the attorney’s suggestion, that the meeting be canceled and a new meeting be rescheduled. Needless to say we had three (3) assistants registering proxies and an Election Monitor present at the next meeting. This time, the registration of proxies was done much faster and although the number of proxies presented were not as high as the previous meeting and the amendment issue was set aside for another meeting altogether, it still took us almost three (3) hours to register everyone.
What if there were a faster and more secure way of registering votes? Well there is and in this week’s podcast of Community Association Matters we interview Donna DiMaggio Berger, Esq. of Becker & Poliakoff, P.A. to discuss their electronic voting system, BP Ballot.
According to Donna, voting online thru BP Ballot is more secure, increases member participation, and saves time. It is more secure than a paper vote for a few reasons. First, in order to vote online the owner must register and assign an email address to his account. The skill set needed to hack an email is much greater than the skill set needed to modify a paper ballot or proxy. In addition, online voting creates a digital imprint. If needed, an owner’s vote can be easily tracked. The need to verify a signature or ownership requirement at a meeting, is eliminated with online voting.
Secondly, BP Ballot increases membership participation. The reason for this is that owners that do not reside in the unit typically do not vote. This is especially true for owners that live outside of the United States. With BP Ballot, owners can vote anytime they wish and from virtually anywhere in the world. In addition, the number of votes disqualified for procedural reasons is also reduced, thus increasing the number of votes cast. For example, in a condominium an owner can only vote for the number of positions open. If the owner votes for more than the number of positions open that ballot is disqualified. With BP Ballot the owner is not allowed to vote for a number greater than the positions available thus allowing their ballot to count. As another example, in most associations ballots must be anonymous. Neither the owners’ name nor address or other indicating factor may appear on the ballot. If an owner accidentally writes their name on a paper ballot that ballot must be rejected. This is entirely eliminated with online voting.
Lastly, BP Ballot also saves time. Normally in a paper election, it takes hours to register owners at the beginning of the meeting. Not with BP Ballot. It takes owners about 5 minutes to register themselves online. Once registered the owner can vote during an election of directors, an amendment vote, waiving of reserves, or a material alteration at their convenience. The owner will have a time frame determined by the Board in which to cast his/her vote. Donna recommends that the Board leave the dates open up until the day of the meeting to ensure increased participation.
In order to implement online voting in your community, you should check with your association’s attorney to ensure that the correct procedure is followed. Each association and their governing documents is very different and that can mean that you may be required to follow a different process than the one we discuss here. According to Donna, a Board of Directors will have to pass a resolution at a board meeting to allow for this method. A statutorily compliant letter must be mailed out to all owners 14 days in advance. It is important that your association attorney draft this letter. A consent form should be mailed out together with this notice. The association can upload all of the required documents, whether it is a ballot, amendments, or plans in case of a material alteration.
In order to participate in BP Ballot, the owner/member must then consent to use online voting. Once the member has opted in and provided an email address, the association then uploads the list to the BP Ballot software. Once the owner registers they will receive a unique pin, which they need to file their vote. When the owner votes he/she will receive an email confirming their vote. If the owner registers, but does not vote right away, they will receive a reminder email three (3) days before the end of the voting period.
It is important to note that associations cannot restrict members from submitting their vote thru paper votes. In other words, owners who wish to vote thru paper vote must be allowed to do so. The cost for BP Ballot for existing Becker & Poliakoff clients is $350; for non-clients the cost is $750. For additional information on BP Ballot you may reach Donna via email firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 954-364-6031. For an instructional video on how the system works you may click here. The interview, which can be heard at the Community Association Matters podcast, offers some additional information not covered in this article. I recommend that you listen to the podcast by clicking here and subscribe to stay in tune with future episodes. For more information on how Allied Property Group can help your community, simply complete the Contact Us form.