At the core of any democracy are free and fair elections. Homeowner associations are no different. After all, HOA boards of directors are elected to serve their communities and represent the interests of their members. The board must preserve the trust their community puts in them. Ensure everyone with a right to a vote gets a vote, and that each of those votes are counted quickly and fairly. Failing to do so erodes the community and could even lead to legal trouble.
Set Some Ground Rules
Whether you are playing Monopoly, governing a country, or just running your HOA, following rules makes sure everyone involved is treated fairly and knows what to expect. This is especially important during elections.
Most of the time, election rules will be laid out in the governing documents of the community. If not, it should be a high priority to define them. Usually, you want these rules to provide how and when the community will be notified of elections, who is eligible to vote, and how to handle quorums and proxies. It’s also important to define how many votes candidates need to be elected. For instance, some communities may require a majority (more than 50% of all votes) to elect a director. Others may only require a plurality of votes. When a plurality of votes is required, the candidate with the most votes wins even if they did not earn a majority of all the votes cast. It’s important to have rules defined ahead of time so everyone knows what to expect.
Know What You are Voting On
It should go without saying that everyone should know what they are voting on. In many cases, the only thing being voted on is the board of directors. Many communities, however, choose to vote on other major projects and initiatives at the same time as elections. Preparing and sharing the ballot well ahead of time will allow for questions and concerns to be raised early. This ensures a much smoother election.
Know Who You are Voting On
Most communities will stagger the election of the directors. That way, the whole board is never leaving office at the same time. For example, if there are 7 spots on your HOA board of directors, only 2 or 3 seats may be up for election at any one time. This makes it easier for senior to pass on their knowledge to junior members. It also ensures there is continuity in policies from year to year.
When elections come around, make sure everyone knows what seats are up for election and that you have candidates to fill those seats. Start your recruitment efforts early, even before meeting notices go out. In some communities, nominations are handled by a specific committee, so check your governing documents to see if that’s true for you. It’s also important to note that communities usually only vote for the board, NOT the officers. Election to specific offices is handled internally by the board.
Understand (And Check For!) Quorum
A major mistake HOAs need to avoid is failing to check for quorum. Quorum is the minimum number of voters that need to be present for business to be conducted. Without it, any vote is invalid, so the election will need to be rescheduled. Unless your governing documents say otherwise, you have quorum when 10% of voting members are present. Be sure that there is some way to record attendance and check for quorum before holding the vote so that no one’s time is wasted.
One good way to make sure you reach quorum is to have a good proxy policy in place. Voting by proxy is when an association member allows another member to vote in their place. Usually, HOAs prepare and send out proxy forms ahead of the election. These forms should include as much information as possible. There should be a list of candidates, any other ballot measures, and clearly marked spaces for the name and signature of both the voting member and the member they are appointing as their proxy. Proxy votes can be counted toward quorum, so it is always a good idea to allow for this convenient option to avoid rescheduling meetings.
Make sure you have a paper trail of everything you do. Every attendee should sign-in at the door of the meeting. This record should be used to check against the eligible voter roll for quorum. Don’t rely on a visual inspection of the room or a verbal roll-call. That leaves you open to error, and you could see non-eligible voters sneaking in. Ballots should also be on paper or use an electronic system that makes it easy to check against voter rolls for the same reason. Finally, any business that is conducted verbally should be documented in the meeting minutes to be approved and referred to later. While this job usually falls to the secretary of the HOA board, everyone should be vigilant to make sure election rules are followed. By keeping a clear record, you can ensure election security and easily refer to notes should any discrepancies arise later.
Team With an HOA Management Company
Though running fair elections is an integral role of the HOA board of directors, it is not something all members have a great deal of experience with doing. That’s one of the big reasons many HOAs decide to team with an accredited HOA management company like Elite Management Systems. By choosing to work with a management company, you gain access to years of experience in not only elections but also maintenance, violations enforcement, and legal assistance. Our team works hard to support our community board members with training and materials to keep their neighborhoods running smoothly. If your elections are coming up and you need some support, request a proposal from our team today.