The current environment has presented many obstacles for Association living. Federal, state, and local governments have placed restrictions on gatherings, which has limited Boards’ options for conducting meetings and getting owner participation. Even when restrictions ease, it is likely that some individuals will remain cautious of gathering in social settings with large groups.
Thus far, Boards have done a phenomenal job adapting to a “new normal” for Association living. Boards are hosting virtual meetings and adopting sanitation, communication, and reopening protocols to keep their communities safe. In addition, many Boards have recently inquired about electronic voting for their upcoming annual meetings.
Electronic Voting is not a new concept to Florida Association legislation. Florida adopted the option to electronically vote in 2015 by passing statutes 718.128 and 720.317 for Condos and HOAs, respectively. However, electronic voting has had a relatively slow adoption rate due to Boards/Associations being unfamiliar with and not necessarily having the “need” to use an electronic platform.
Electronic voting can increase owner participation, limit the need for a physical ballot, and save on future mailing costs. We anticipate a significant increase in the adoption of electronic voting platforms in response to the COVID-19 crisis. As such, below are 4 important factors to consider when adopting an electronic voting process.
- Other Community Initiatives – Electronic Voting is NOT just for elections. Communities have seen great success using electronic voting for other initiatives like waiving reserves or amending governing documents. Furthermore, in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is possible your Association might have the need to use reserve funds to cover operating expenses if there is a significant delinquency problem at your community. This can only be done by a membership vote in a duly called meeting. An electronic voting process could be instrumental in carrying out this member vote.
- Florida Statutes – There are many products on the market for electronic voting. It is ESPECIALLY important to use a product specifically built in compliance with Florida Statutes. There are specific nuances in the Florida statute that make online voting more complicated than it is in other states.
- Opting In – The Florida statutes address the need for owners to provide “written consent” to use electronic voting. This is the most challenging aspect of electronic voting; however, your property management company should have thought through the best way to obtain written consent as it pertains to your community.
- Products – In addition to being compliant with Florida statutes, it is important to consider products your Property Management Company and Legal Firm have used at other communities. This will help ensure a smooth transition to an electronic voting process. Campbell managed properties have used and had success using the following products:
- Vote HOA Now http://www.votehoanow.com
- The Inspectors of Election https://www.theinspectorsofelection.com/start.htm
- Becker Ballot https://beckerballot.com/
With every Association being unique, Property Management Companies will remain key in carrying out the aspects of the “new normal” for Association living. Contact your Management Company and/or Law Firm for specific questions regarding online voting at your community.
by PJ Biondolillo, Campbell Property Management