Electronic Voting ~ Should Corporations Push For It?
New system in condos could dramatically increases unit owner participation
Excerpt from Article published in the REMI newsletter
Monday, January 20, 2020 by Denise Lash
Opponents of electronic voting are scared. They’re scared electronic voting is going to expose the archaic and flawed system of proxy voting for what it is: unnecessary and obsolete.
They’re also scared because they know that it is largely through proxy voting that some people have been able to maintain and secure their positions for extended periods, giving them years – sometimes decades – of unchallenged control and all the benefits that come with it. So, while the rest of the world has already adopted electronic voting or is moving quickly to embrace it, we see self-interested pockets of resistance in Canada trying to hang on to the status quo.
The first telling observation is that these pockets of resistance are not condominium owners themselves. If that strikes you as strange, it should. Ask any owner who has used electronic voting, and they will tell you the inescapable truth – they love it. They get to cast their own vote, using an encrypted email link that connects with a secure online voting site. They vote at their convenience and in private. Furthermore, they participate in the voting process and express their personal preferences, which are free from the self-interested influence or interference of others.
None of this should come as any surprise. Owners are no different than any other consumer; they expect the same seamless and easy-to-use digital experience in their condo living as they experience in all other areas of their life. So the very notion that an owner should need to use a proxy – whether electronic or paper – to give someone else the right to cast their vote in this day and age of the internet must seem like a quaint holdover from the Victorian era.
Putting proxies in the past
It’s easy to see why electronic voting is now the norm in over half the states in the U.S. and spreading rapidly. It’s also easy to see why some states, like Arizona and Florida, have passed legislation which prohibits proxy voting, and other states are in the process of doing the same (more on that in a moment).
Condominium owners are not the only ones who love electronic voting. High-performing condo directors, boards, and managers who are motivated by the best interests of their unit owners also love it. Electronic voting dramatically increases unit owner participation, frequently, up to levels of 90 per cent or more. Unit owners engage in the voting process and express their opinion because it’s easy to do. Just one “click” and they’ve voted. Boards have clear mandates as a result.
The increased participation also ensures that quorum is easily obtained weeks, and at least days, in advance of a meeting. Electronic voting translates into owner participation, which itself translates into accountability. High-performing condo directors, boards, and managers welcome this kind of accountability as it means affirmation and recognition of a job well done. It’s only poor performers, or those taking advantage of their position for personal gain or conducting themselves inappropriately, who fear the loss of control that occurs when electronic voting makes proxies irrelevant.
The electronic voting process
Here’s what the electronic voting process could look like:
A voting invitation is sent to owners eligible to vote.
The ballot sets out all the voting items that will take place at the owners meeting and gives the owner options as to whether to vote on items, such as the election of Board members, Bylaws, approval of the minutes, appointment of auditor or any item that the corporation may wish to include. Owners are given an option to use the ballot for quorum only.
After the initial voting invitation has been sent out, reminders are sent to those owners who have not yet voted. No more than one vote per voting unit is allowed, with the vote of owners with multiple units weighted so that the owner only votes once but that vote is counted to reflect one vote per unit.
There are few, if any, paper ballots or proxies to draft, distribute, collect, scrutinize and store. Owners who do not want to participate in online voting still have the option to attend the meeting and cast their vote in person or to appoint a proxy. T
Independent third-party oversight tallies the vote. This adds an extra layer of privacy and security to the voting process as votes are anonymous and only the Corporation receives the final vote tally. Once the voting period has ended, the final tally is automatically, rather than manually, tabulated and sent to the Corporation’s designated contact person.
Voting platforms can also be used by corporations to conduct informal surveys to get feedback from owners on various matters before decisions are made.
Denise Lash is the founder and principal of Lash Condo Law (www.lashcondolaw.com). She is also the entrepreneur behind CondoVoter, in partnership with Vote HOA Now.
See also article published in October 2018 on the same subject.