For many years now, I have been convinced that electronic voting in community associations was inevitable. There is no doubt that electronic voting would make life easier for community managers, board members, and homeowners. When my clients were making by-law changes, I drafted amendments for associations that would take effect when the eventual change occurred. With the enactment of the Radburn Law, that change has now occurred and associations have the ability to adopt electronic notice and voting provisions. In my opinion, too few associations have taken advantage of this opportunity.
Electronic voting is sometimes misunderstood. It is not voting by e-mail. Rather, electronic voting means that ballots are cast on-line or through other electronic means and delivered directly to an association through a website or other secure service or program prior to a meeting. Notices are similarly handled on-line. For years, corporations have conducted elections electronically and the technology is readily available and at little cost for use by associations.
Electronic voting is more secure than using paper ballots, proxies, and absentee ballots. Verification of identity is provided. Results are available more quickly. Voter identity is protected (i.e., secret ballots). Weighted voting (different percentages for different units) is made easier. Even associations with fractional voting can be accommodated. There is greater confidence in the election process, since the collection and tabulation of votes is not handled either by management or the board. The process can result in cost savings for many associations.
In order to implement electronic notice and voting, associations will need to amend their by-laws. The good news is that the “reverse amendment” or “rejection vote” process in the Radburn Law is available for this task. Here is what Radburn specifically requires regarding electronic notice and voting:
Electronic notice is permitted when the documents are amended to provide it (subject to the availability of another form of voting) OR when the particular member has agreed in writing to accept notice by electronic means.
Electronic voting must be authorized by the governing documents (the by-law amendment); requires a determination to use it by the board AND consent by the particular member to vote electronically. The Association must still provide the opportunity to vote by paper ballot if requested.
So I recommend the following steps for both electronic notice and voting: (1) adopt a by-law amendment that is carefully written to allow a secure, verifiable method of electronic notice and voting and also provides an alternative method of notice or voting; (2) identify and secure a reputable internet notice/voting service provider; (3) educate/inform the members of the availability of the services and the benefits; and (4) get members’ consent for these services.
Effective communication with the owners and fair and efficient voting procedures are key to an association’s success. For those who believe that particular age groups may be less inclined to participate, think again, because statistics show that an overwhelming percentage of adults of all ages are regularly using the internet.
For more information on this or any other issue concerning your community association, please contact one of our Community Associations attorneys. For breaking news or updates on new blog posts, follow us on Twitter at: @njcondolaw.