Online Voting is Here!

Online Voting is Here!
Image Digital Voting

Condo elections are a stressful time in the life of an Association. Identifying qualified owners to fill volunteer roles can be a challenge. Disseminating information to all owners about the candidates and when and where to submit ballots or proxies often leads to confusion or mistrust. An effective method to bring civility back to this process is by utilizing technology and adopting Online Voting.

Big Benefits to Associations
Increased engagement by residents is one of the chief reasons to use online voting: an easier process means better participation. Some of the other advantages might be obvious, such as giving people the ability to vote anywhere from a computer or mobile phone, or enjoying a fast tallying process, especially when a percentage of ownership must be calculated.

Implementing an online voting program also saves money in printing, postage and staff costs, while contributing to a greener environment with digital ballots. And depending on the features of the voting system, Associations may have access to new demographic data in addition to quicker, more accurate vote tallying. Finally, residents can be assured of secure, confidential results when running a secret ballot.

Even if not all residents are technologically savvy, hybrid voting – offering both paper and digital ballots – will still provide some advantages over traditional voting methods.

Legal Considerations
Since January 1, 2015, Illinois law has allowed for electronic voting in condominium associations and common interest communities. The law describes acceptable electronic transmission of ballots as any form of communication without the physical transmission of paper that creates a record that can be retained, retrieved or reviewed by a recipient and that may be reproduced on paper form by the recipient.

Getting started with online voting is not as simple as signing on with a service. A Board has a few steps to take before running its first electronic campaign. First among these steps is making sure the Association can legally run an election electronically.

To implement new voting procedures, the Board of Directors must adopt new rules to allow electronic voting.  First, have an attorney draft the rule, and send it out to ownership a minimum of 10 days prior to adoption by the Board. The board votes to adopt new rules at an open meeting, and the new process can be used for the next election as long as the rule was adopted 120 days before the date of the election.  The rule must stipulate that owners or residents give written authorization to receive electronic notice, waive the right to receive notice via regular mails and provide a valid email to receive the ballot and access information. Then the board must prepare and circulate instructions for electronic voting and maintain records of the votes cast or other acts taken.

Note that if a rule is adopted at least 120 days before a board election, or if the declaration or bylaws provide for balloting, unit owners may not vote by proxy in board elections. Once electronic voting is implemented, Owners may not vote by proxy and may vote only by submitting an association-issued ballot in person at the election meeting, or by any acceptable technological means. The elimination of proxies may be a challenge initially, so Associations should consider the addition of absentee voting to ease the transition. A hybrid election using absentee and electronic balloting will be instrumental in getting maximum participation at the onset of changes to the election process.

Successful Implementation
There are multiple online voting services available to help manage the election process. Page Per Page recently met with LMS leaders to present their services, and Condo CPA participated as a panelist at Lieberman’s October 2016 client event for board members. Both services offer solutions that seem to fit the needs of our communities; however, our Property Managers research options to identify which service meets their community’s specific requirements.

A steady stream of communication through various sources will make an online voting program a success. People may need to hear a message several times before absorbing it, and the most successful message is a simple one that explains how this method makes voting easy and accurate. Consider communicating through sources like newsletters, door drops, email blasts and flyers in common areas, and perhaps social media outlets. LMS-managed associations have the option to post the information in the private residents’ portal called eStar.

In the 21st century, a modern tech approach to voting just makes sense, and we have the knowledge you need to make the implementation a success. Contact your LMS property manager today to find out how to implement the program before your next election.