Whether you live in a condo, co-op, or HOA, board elections are a complicated process, especially when it comes to voting and counting ballots. Yet electing (or re-electing) a board is probably one of the most important exercises the residents of a co-op or condo building 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 – president, for example – 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 exactly residents 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 of a board of directors or board of managers is generally held at the annual meeting for the co-op corporation or condominium. “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, a company based in Tigard, Oregon that provides online voting solutions for HOAs. “Ultimately the board has a fiduciary duty to the association, which includes doing what is necessary to have a fair election.”
The election process also differs from region to region and state to state. Some buildings use paper ballots, while others have switched to online voting. Choosing the voting and tabulation method depends on the building community – as well as their bylaws. Resident preference factors in as well, with more and more HOAs and buildings opting to convert to online voting from more traditional paper ballots for reasons of sheer convenience. “So many people that want to vote need to vote,” says Linda Gibbs, President of the Floral Park, New York-based Honest Ballot, a company that handles private elections with condos, co-ops, and associations all over the country, “and yet some – like homebound residents, for example – don’t have the opportunity. Nowadays, however, the elderly are using Skype or using their phones [to cast votes and be heard].”
It’s interesting to note that no matter what the location, there is really only one difference between the actual process of co-op and condo voting. “The only difference is that it just depends on the shares,” says Gibbs. “A condo does voting by percentage of interest, while a co-op would do voting by shares or cumulative voting – but otherwise there’s no difference. Also, it depends on whether the bylaws say they have to vote in-person or they can to vote by proxy or by absentee ballot.”