In this age of advanced technology where nearly everybody is tied to their computer, tablet, or cell phone, HOA elections in states that allow for voting online would benefit by incorporating the process into their rules and procedures for conducting elections. Studies have shown that associations that conduct online HOA elections have not only increased homeowner participation in the election, but they have also cut costs by utilizing the online voting process.
Overview of the Online Voting Procedure
Online HOA elections within homeowners associations can be conducted by utilizing third-party services and/or software that is now available for purchase by a homeowners association. The process starts with downloading homeowner/voter information into a computer system. When it is time for the election of new directors or for homeowners to vote on a proposed measure, online ballots are created. Information relative to the election such as candidate biographies, photos, election rules, critical dates, quorums, proxies, etc is downloaded and emailed to the members. Email notifications inviting the vote and/or providing reminders, and confirming action by the voter can be scheduled. When its time for the election, homeowners identify themselves online by entering their private registration code, name, email address and password to view and read about the candidates and/or ballot measures, and then instantly records their vote by a click of the mouse. The system generates an online confirmation that is emailed to the member which confirms that the vote was recorded and how the member voted. The third-party service provider, or the associations election official (i.e. inspector of elections) then tracks the automatically tabulated election results in real-time, eliminating the need for the outdated, complex and time consuming process of manually handling and counting paper ballots. When the time for casting votes has ended, election officials access information concerning the election online and are able to determine such things as:
- Election statistics such as turn-out and voting percentages;
- The total number of yes or no votes on measures;
- The total number of votes for each candidate being elected;
- A list of homeowners that voted and how they voted (which may be kept confidential).
Online Elections / Voting Saves Time
Conducting elections of directors and votes on ballot measures reduces the amount of time that is required for both the homeowners association and the members in connection with the election / vote. For the association, the process of printing and mailing campaign information, and organizing in-person HOA elections and being present for the manual tabulation of votes in the handling of the ballots is a time consuming process. For association members, participating in an online election saves them time and indirectly increases the likelihood of members participating in the election. Instead of scheduling and attending a meeting for the election / vote, the members can vote at their convenience online at any time during the election / voting period.
Online Elections / Voting Costs Less
Another benefit of online HOA elections and voting with homeowners associations is a savings of money for the association. Online HOA elections eliminate much, if not all, of the cost of printing materials that are related to the campaign and the associated postage costs for mailing all of the association members candidate profiles, voter pamphlets, and ballots. The online process allows for the uploading of these items and the distribution to the association members via email. Additional related expenses that can be avoided include the expenses for facilities, personnel, and food.
Homeowners associations that are domiciled in states where HOA elections and voting can be conducted online would benefit from taking steps to incorporate the process of online voting within their association. By doing so, member participation will improve, the costs associated with the election / vote will be reduced, time will be saved, and the accuracy and efficiency of the election and voting process will most certainly improve. HOA directors and management personnel should keep in mind that the implementation of online voting will require the acquisition of software and/or the use of a third-party service provider, and the amendment of various governing documents to provide for online HOA elections and voting (which should always be done with the assistance of legal counsel). Accordingly, the process of implementing online elections and voting will require an initial investment but it should be a worthwhile investment in the long run.