On Friday, I had the pleasure of being invited to attend a meeting of many representatives from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation, including arbitrators and the Condominium Ombudsman. The purpose of the meeting was to hear from the public in regards to the new condominium statute that would allow Boards of Directors to pass a resolution allowing for voting by computer over the internet.
To sum it up best, I think everyone walked away from the meeting having far more additional questions than answers. Everyone in attendance was concerned that the integrity of the process is going to get worse, not better. If you thought HOA proxies are a hot commodity to collect at election time, just wait until condo owners start asking other people for their computer log in information which would allow them to vote in place of the true owner of the unit. Everyone was also concerned that while the statute says it must be “IMPOSSIBLE” to know who voted for who, it may not be possible to make that impossible.
When voting in person at the annual meeting, unit owners are allowed to vote until the first ballot is opened. Obviously, that can’t happen with electronic voting. And by the way….. on the night of the election, who gets access to the computer system to determine how people voted on-line? Is it the Board members who are running for re-election? Is it the manager? Is it the attorney? How do we prevent non owners who live in the same household as the owner from voting?
While there weren’t many answers to these questions, it also seemed clear that the arbitrator’s job was about to get a lot more difficult. What happens now, when a unit owner challenges an election by stating that the computer process used by the association did not comply with the statute because it did not do all of the things required by the statute? Now, the arbitrator will have to potentially take testimony from computer experts and decide which one is more credible. Is that what arbitrators should be spending their time on? What happens if the votes by computer are not available on the night of the election? Is the election continued until the following day or until the computer votes are tabulated? If not, do you just forget about the computer votes and hope nobody challenges the election? Are recall proceedings allowed to be done on an internet voting system? Lord knows how many problems that would create.
In all candor, there was little to no thought process that went into the legislation passed by the House and Senate. Perhaps the thinking was voting on your home computer would get more people involved in the process. I’m not convinced it will. The people who normally attend the annual meeting will still attend the meeting and vote in person. The other people who normally vote by mail were also already interested in the politics of their association and would continue to vote by mail. So it begs the question….who else is this going to entice to vote? I say nobody. If people were interested in voting, checking a few boxes on a paper ballot, signing an envelope and sticking it in the mail is not such a major roadblock as to turn an owner away from casting his or her vote if they were interested in voting in the first place. If internet voting is so wonderful, why is it not allowed in any state, county or municipal election? The answer is because it compromises the integrity of the election.
In light of all of these questions that remain unanswered, and all of the possibilities of fraud, and failure to comply with this new statute, it is crystal clear that there is one particular group of people that will no doubt benefit from the lawsuits and/or arbitration proceedings that will result from all this confusion. You know exactly who I’m talking about. Just type your answer below.