E-voting in Florida

Date Published : Jun-27-2022

Written By : Kim Brown

E-voting, or online voting, has been available to Florida community associations since 2015. But many condos and HOAs didn’t really think about adopting an online voting system until the 2020 pandemic hit.

Now that things are mostly back to normal, some communities are happy to pick up where they left off. But others are wondering if e-voting would improve voter participation and simplify the entire voting process for management. While there are a lot of legal considerations to process, e-voting can be a very effective option when it comes to reaching quorum. This is especially true if you lead a community with lots of snowbirds.

  

How to get started

Before e-voting can be offered to members, it’s up to the board to decide if this is something they want for the community. Florida law requires associations to “adopt a board resolution approving electronic voting before they can utilize this type of voting process.”

The resolution must be considered at a board of directors meeting on 14 days of notice. A copy of the resolution must be given to all owners.

Board members must determine, in detail, how the online voting process will be conducted. They must consider procedures, deadlines, how members will consent to e-voting, and how they will opt out if they choose to do so later on.

Below are the things that condos and HOAs must follow in order to comply with e-voting laws in Florida:

  • Owners must receive notice of the opportunity to vote through an online voting system before each election or other vote where online voting is authorized
  • Owners wishing to cast an e-vote must consent, in writing, no less than 14 days before the election or owner vote
  • There must be a way for the e-voting system to authenticate each owner’s identification
  • There must be a way for the system to securely transmit an electronic ballot to the online voting system
  • Owners must be able to confirm that their electronic devices can communicate with the voting system at least 14 days before the voting deadline

  

The rules

Florida associations can see exactly what e-voting laws say here. Note that the language for condos and HOAs is identical, except for item 2 (d).  

For condominiums, it is a requirement that the voting system has the capability 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,” for elections of the board of administration. However, this rule is only applicable to HOAs if the association’s bylaws provide for secret ballots for the election of directors.

  

Electronic voting laws

The association may 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:

1. 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.

  

3. A unit owner voting electronically pursuant to this section shall be counted as being in attendance at the meeting for purposes of determining a quorum. A substantive vote of the unit owners may not be taken on any issue other than the issues specifically identified in the electronic vote, when a quorum is established based on unit owners voting electronically pursuant to this section.

  

4. This section applies to an association that provides for and authorizes an online voting system pursuant to this section by a board resolution. The board resolution must provide that unit owners receive notice of the opportunity to vote through an online voting system, must establish reasonable procedures and deadlines for unit owners to consent, in writing, to online voting, and must establish reasonable procedures and deadlines for unit owners to opt out of online voting after giving consent. Written notice of a meeting at which the resolution will be considered must be mailed, delivered, or electronically transmitted to the unit owners and posted conspicuously on the condominium property or association property at least 14 days before the meeting. Evidence of compliance with the 14-day notice requirement must be made by an affidavit executed by the person providing the notice and filed with the official records of the association.

  

5. A unit owner’s consent to online voting is valid until the unit owner opts out of online voting according to the procedures established by the board of administration pursuant to subsection (4).

  

6. This section may apply to any matter that requires a vote of the unit owners who are not members of a timeshare condominium association.

  

Benefits of e-voting

In associations where voting participation is a consistent concern, online voting can greatly increase participation and help communities reach quorum on the first try. Owners that vote through the online system are counted as being in attendance at the meeting for purposes of determining a quorum. Furthermore, owners can vote from anywhere as long as they have an electronic device, internet connection, and access to the voting system. It’s a great hybrid option, and still provides members with the opportunity to attend and vote in person if they prefer that instead.

Contrary to what some might think, online voting can also lessen the risk of fraudulent elections. Good systems will be able to authenticate users and ensure they are who they say they are. Participants will also only be able to vote once.

The costs for use of an online voting software system will probably be more than what it costs to print and mail out votes, but the labor costs are reduced.

  

Considerations

The biggest consideration to make when offering e-voting to members is the system the association will select. Associations choosing to move forward with e-voting must choose a system that is both easy to use and complies with legal requirements. Condo Control has an outstanding e-voting system that is both customizable and very secure. Our team takes care of all the hard work for you so that you can focus on hosting a smooth election. 

Associations must maintain “opt-in” records from owners so that if there is ever a dispute, there is proof of the owner’s decision on file.   

While e-voting is a great option, it’s not for every condo or HOA. Some associations may be happy continuing with in-person voting, especially if the community is small.

  

Conclusion

E-voting has been legal for associations in Florida for a long time. However, some developments may be reluctant to try it because of all the rules and requirements. Fortunately, knowledgeable companies that provide e-voting software systems to HOAs and condos should be able to help associations navigate all of the tricky stuff and set them up for success.

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