The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged the way we conduct business, and in key states, changed how private sector voting is conducted. In states where e-voting has been adopted for private sector elections, here are some important lessons.
Private Sector Voting and Its Challenges
Many private sector organizations, including community associations, have multiple elections throughout the year. They can be as simple as electing its Board of Directors, or as complex as changing the association bylaws and and increasing dues assessments. Regardless of the election, community associations must follow state laws that govern election protocol from member notification through ballot tabulation.
COVID-19 and Its Impact
During COVID-19, community associations had the opportunity to challenge assumptions about how their meetings and elections should be conducted. Community associations, especially Homeowners Associations (HOAs), became masters of the virtual meeting. Members were able to attend meetings virtually from the comfort of their home and participate in association issues they may have missed due to work or other obligations. Community and association managers began noticing an increase in participation and attendance at meetings. These forward-looking managers decided it was wise to add e-voting to their virtual meetings so they could enfranchise as many of their members as possible.
State Laws Keep Up With E-Voting Demand
Many states instituted executive orders to allow for private sector entities to meet and vote virtually during COVID-19. This opened many possibilities for community associations to meet quorum requirements and voting threshold percentages. Fortunately, many of the states that started with e-voting laws as a "stop-gap" measure while the country was social distancing, have turned their executive orders to state law. Community associations showed the positive direction of e-voting and states are following.
States Allow For E-Voting in Private Sector Elections
Multiple states already have e-voting laws on their books and hopefully, more will adopt e-voting measures in the 2023 legislative session. In Massachusetts, Illinois, Montana, and New York, their laws have been changed to allow e-voting and virtual meetings.
The Community Association Institute (CAI), which provides its over 40,000 worldwide members with information on CA and HOA best practices, sees e-voting as having the potential to increase owner interest and participation in their association issues. That translates to achieving meeting quorums, voting percentage thresholds, and filling nomination slates.
Benefits For Community Members
Ballots can be made into many language versions
Access for people with limited time to get their ballots in
Access for people with disabilities
Conveniently vote from anywhere
Enfranchising all voters especially through paper ballots on demand if permitted
Benefits For Board Members
Accelerated time to results
Independent authority running the process end-to-end ensures accurate vote counting
Reducing printed materials while maintaining the ability for election audits
Cost-effective and labor efficient