You have all heard the saying “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Apparently, The Florida Legislature overlooked this concept when it recently passed a bill which authorizes owners in community associations to vote by e-mail in their elections and for other unit owner votes.
In condos, H.O.A.s and co-ops, the association may now conduct elections and other unit owner votes through an internet-based online voting system if a unit owner consents, in writing to online voting and if the following requirements are met:
- The association provides each unit owner with:
(a) a method to authenticate the unit owner’s identity to the online voting system.
(b) For elections of the board, a method to transmit an electronic ballot to the online voting system that ensures the secrecy and integrity of each ballot.
(c) A method to confirm, at least 14 days before the voting deadline, that the unit owner’s electronic device can successfully communicate with the online voting system.
(2) The association uses an online voting system that is:
(a) Able to authenticate the unit owner’s identity.
(b) Able to authenticate the validity of each electronic vote to ensure that the vote is not altered in transit.
(c) Able to transmit a receipt from the online voting system to each unit owner who casts an electronic vote.
(d) For elections of the board of administration, able to permanently separate any authentication or identifying information from the electronic election ballot, rendering it impossible to tie an election ballot to a specific unit owner.
(e) Able to store and keep electronic votes accessible to election officials for recount, inspection, and review purposes.
Finally…..To initiate this process, a resolution of the Board of Directors is required.
I’m no computer whiz, but I’m real curious as to how the association is going to create a system where an owner’s identity must be authenticated, the owner is entitled to a receipt, yet somehow the owner’s ballot cannot be identified as coming from that owner and in addition somehow the owner’s vote has to be stored so that it can later be used as evidence in recall proceedings and for election officials.
Not surprisingly, the Department of Business and Professional Regulation has yet to devise an actual way to put the statute into practice. I believe they are actively working with NASA and Bill Gates and we should expect an update shortly.
I know of no municipal, county, state or federal election that allows you to vote on the internet. The reason is pretty simple. There is too much room for internet fraud in the voting process and there is simply no way to guarantee secrecy and accuracy in the voting process. Instead of staying that course, The Florida Legislature went the other way and basically said “Let’s make Florida community associations the guinea pig and allow their elections to be subject to internet fraud.”
The excuse for allowing internet voting is that often times people are not at home during the election process. So what? That’s why every state allows for absentee ballots that can be mailed in. That is already allowed in our Florida elections in condominiums and in HOAs where unit owners can give another owner their proxy if they can’t make it to the election meeting.
By the way……who verifies that the system that must be in place, is actually put into place? If a Board member says he devised such a magical system that complies with the statute, do we take his or her word for it? Even if the internet votes are sent to an e-mail address that he or she controls? Even if he or she is running for the Board at the moment?
There were other important issues to address this past legislative session in our Florida community associations. The Florida Legislature could have passed legislation that allowed the DBPR to assist HOAs, strengthened the HOA election process to allow voting by mail or even ensured that funds paid to the Condo Trust Fund by condo owners don’t get stolen and swept into the General Revenue Fund. Instead, there was this mistaken belief that allowing voting by internet would make voting easier in your association. I hope I’m wrong, but I’m thinking that come election time, a fiasco awaits.