With the passage of a new law in 2015, the Florida legislature made online-based electronic voting an option for the state’s community associations. Many associations have since adopted the use of electronic voting for their meetings and elections, and the supporters thereof have claimed that is has yielded a number of benefits including increased membership participation and improved tracking of owner participation, trends and interests. Here are a few helpful tips for those who are now considering the implementation of electronic voting in their communities.
Boards of directors should first be aware that if they wish to implement an internet-based voting system for the votes of their owners, they must do so in compliance with the statutory procedures applicable to their respective associations, which include the adoption of a resolution supporting the platform at a properly noticed meeting. Once approved, associations should notify the owners of the change as well as the procedures and deadlines for owners to opt-in or opt-out via written responses that are added to its records.
Florida law requires that community association e-voting systems must be able to authenticate owners’ identities and receive ballots in a manner that ensures their secrecy and integrity. For board elections, the owner-identifying information must be separated from each ballot to render it impossible to tie authenticated ballots to specific owners. The systems must also be able to store and keep electronic votes accessible for recount, inspection and review purposes.
In light of the complexity regarding the administration of the electronic voting platform in conformance with the legally imposed criteria and procedures, we encourage associations to engage a reputable Florida-specific electronic voting platforms vendor. Association boards and management should carefully evaluate such electronic voting platform operators to confirm that the vendor is qualified to comply with the Florida laws governing the administration of electronic voting and it has successfully provided such services to other community associations.
In addition to cost-efficiency and increased election turnout benefits stemming from electronic voting, its advocates claim that these systems may offer ancillary benefits, such as allowing associations to easily and affordably create and distribute owner surveys on topics ranging from major renovation projects to prospective new equipment for the fitness center.
Proponents of electronic voting have also claimed that it may help associations by encouraging participation and making difficult quorum thresholds achievable, and it also makes it much easier to track, report and store all election ballots and results.
For associations just getting started with online voting evaluation, the best approach is to first do their research on the different systems that are available, and to seek the advice of qualified expert such as licensed property managers and board-certified community association attorneys. Unit owners should be provided with effective guidance, including detailed written instructions, and board meeting discussions should take place to address any questions or concerns.
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