by Deborah Goonan
Florida recently enacted legislation allowing for electronic voting in Association Governed Communities. Proponents of the bill opined that electronic voting will increase voter participation in Association elections, and increase the odds of meeting quorum requirements. To quell opponents’ concerns about the integrity of electronic votes, the new statute sets minimum security requirements for service providers. Property owners must opt-in if they wish to vote electronically, and can opt-out in the future.
Aside from lingering concerns about who will certify electronic voting systems as meeting minimum security requirements, nothing else about voting in Florida’s Associations has been changed in any of the statutes. The procedures for condominium associations still require secret ballots for elections, while election procedures for homeowners’ associations are determined by whatever is written in the governing documents (in other words, almost anything goes). For Florida Homeowners’ Associations (HOAs), proxies can still be used for elections, and new legislation even allows electronic transmission of proxy forms. Large scale HOAs will still be permitted to allocate membership votes to a handful of Voting Representatives, who will then elect the Master Association Board without any direct vote from members.
Voting interests will still be allocated to each Unit owned – or by proportional share based upon the size of the Unit. There is still no requirement for “one person, one vote” in Association Governed Communities. So the door is still wide open for one or a small group of investors to accumulate multiple units and sufficient votes to take over control of the Association.
Associations can still remove voting rights of members that are late paying assessments, or that have been notified of a covenant violation, no matter the circumstances and no matter how minor the offense.
All in all, electronic voting will neither guarantee nor promote democratic voting as it is defined in American communities that are not burdened by a mandatory homeowners association. At best, it will now be easier for owners to vote in the same undemocratic system.