by Steven J. Weil, Ph.D., EA, LCAM, Royale Management Services, Inc.

Four years after electronic (internet-based) voting for elections and other issues became legal in Florida, it is not yet the norm for all associations.  Let’s look at what has to be done to implement it as well as some of the pros and cons.

Step One is to conduct a duly-noticed Board meeting where a decision is made that spells out the process and the deadlines giving owners the opportunity to consent or not.  As long as the owner consents in writing, the association can provide the owner with an electronic notice even if there is no authorization in the bylaws.  Owners must have the right to opt out at a later time.

Step Two is to work with a vendor to put in place a system to administer and tally the votes accurately and privately using sophisticated software.  The process also must allow owners who wish to do so to vote by paper ballot.

Step Three is to conduct a membership meeting to tally and announce the combined electronic and paper votes.  Electronic votes count towards the quorum for the meeting.

What Else You Need to Know

The software used for electronic voting must be able to provide a receipt and to store the voting records in case they are needed at a later date.  It also must ensure that votes cannot be altered in transit, and it must allow election ballots to be separated and not linked to a specific owner.  It’s important to choose a vendor carefully.  There are now new vendors to choose from for specialized assistance that should ensure compliance with statutory requirements.  Vendor  competition may keep costs down.

Pros and Cons

Perhaps the main advantage of electronic voting is convenience, but there isn’t a huge savings in administrative costs since paper ballots must still be provided to all owners.  Some unit owners choose not to provide their email addresses due to privacy concerns.  For better or for worse, sharing opinions in person among owners to influence voting decisions is probably lessened by the electronic process.  In theory, electronic voting will eventually increase membership participation in voting and at the same time reduce the amount of administrative labor involved while also reducing human error.  Time will tell.