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Subject: Florida HOA 720 Electronic Voting: Email???
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ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/08/2020 8:43 PM  
I am a board member of a small HOA with 26 voting lots. We self-manageI. No property management company. I am continually at odds with the board President. I am looking for feedback on this one particular issue.

We had our Annual Members Meeting yesterday. The agenda included a membership vote to allow for electronic voting. He intends to have voting conducted via email. My objections to his approach, the process to institute electronic voting, and the means for voting, ie email, falls on deaf ears. At the Members Meeting I read aloud the statute word for word. I objected to voting by email but he says everything required in the statute he can do via email. The Membership voted and passed electronic voting via email.

Our documents do not provide for electronic voting. In an email to him today I told him a board meeting was needed to adopt a resolution and provided the direct link to the part of the statute regarding electronic voting. He wrote back saying he does not feel the board needs to adopt a resolution, that the membership adopted the electronic voting with their vote yesterday. BIG SIGH. If he would just read the statute and try to give it consideration, he would see that the resolution is not just about adopting electronic voting, it’s also about the process.

I, IMHO, see no way to implement what is required for a voting process by email. The statute does not specifically rule out email. Yet I feel that internet voting system means just that: voting “system”. But I suppose someone could interpret the creation of a process by which voting will be done via email as being a “system”.

Electronic voting certainly benefits an association on many levels, including the ease of establishing a quorum and the participation of elections. But it also takes the voting process out of the hands of a board.

I have looked for something that I can bring to him that convinces him that email cannot be used for the purpose of voting. Or am I wrong???

Again, this is a small association. There is no way that we would pay the fees for an online voting company/software. And he isn’t going to want to pay for a legal opinion.

Opinions?

JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4211


03/08/2020 10:59 PM  
I would personally disagree that everything in the statute can be done via email ... LOL the sections below in BOLD cannot be done via email!!. But some will depend on what your Governing Documents state:

(9) ELECTIONS AND BOARD VACANCIES.—

(a) Elections of directors must be conducted in accordance with the procedures set forth in the governing documents of the association. Except as provided in paragraph (b), all members of the association are eligible to serve on the board of directors, and a member may nominate himself or herself as a candidate for the board at a meeting where the election is to be held; provided, however, that if the election process allows candidates to be nominated in advance of the meeting, the association is not required to allow nominations at the meeting. An election is not required unless more candidates are nominated than vacancies exist. If an election is not required because there are either an equal number or fewer qualified candidates than vacancies exist, and if nominations from the floor are not required pursuant to this section or the bylaws, write-in nominations are not permitted and such qualified candidates shall commence service on the board of directors, regardless of whether a quorum is attained at the annual meeting. Except as otherwise provided in the governing documents, boards of directors must be elected by a plurality of the votes cast by eligible voters. Any challenge to the election process must be commenced within 60 days after the election results are announced.

(b) A person who is delinquent in the payment of any fee, fine, or other monetary obligation to the association on the day that he or she could last nominate himself or herself or be nominated for the board may not seek election to the board, and his or her name shall not be listed on the ballot. A person serving as a board member who becomes more than 90 days delinquent in the payment of any fee, fine, or other monetary obligation to the association shall be deemed to have abandoned his or her seat on the board, creating a vacancy on the board to be filled according to law. For purposes of this paragraph, the term “any fee, fine, or other monetary obligation” means any delinquency to the association with respect to any parcel. A person who has been convicted of any felony in this state or in a United States District or Territorial Court, or has been convicted of any offense in another jurisdiction which would be considered a felony if committed in this state, may not seek election to the board and is not eligible for board membership unless such felon’s civil rights have been restored for at least 5 years as of the date on which such person seeks election to the board. The validity of any action by the board is not affected if it is later determined that a person was ineligible to seek election to the board or that a member of the board is ineligible for board membership.

(c) Any election dispute between a member and an association must be submitted to mandatory binding arbitration with the division. Such proceedings must be conducted in the manner provided by s. 718.1255 and the procedural rules adopted by the division. Unless otherwise provided in the bylaws, any vacancy occurring on the board before the expiration of a term may be filled by an affirmative vote of the majority of the remaining directors, even if the remaining directors constitute less than a quorum, or by the sole remaining director. In the alternative, a board may hold an election to fill the vacancy, in which case the election procedures must conform to the requirements of the governing documents. Unless otherwise provided in the bylaws, a board member appointed or elected under this section is appointed for the unexpired term of the seat being filled. Filling vacancies created by recall is governed by s. 720.303(10) and rules adopted by the division.

LOL ...

Your President needs to provide proof of:

1.) Do your governing documents currently allow internet voting ... If not then the DOCUMENTS need to be changed!!! Sorry ... a membership vote to allow for electronic voting does not change your Governing Documents and would make any such voting potentially illegal.

2.) How is a member to be able to nominate himself or herself as a candidate for the board at a meeting where the election is to be held if there is no meeting??? Unless your Governing Documents allow candidates to be nominated in advance of the meeting this item could be an issue.

3.) And yes we cannot forget the all important QUORUM noted in virtually ALL State Statutes including Florida. Hmmm ... so how is a quorum established via email voting???

If the President does not meet your governing documents or State Statutes regarding your election then follow (c) above and submit to the Florida HOA division for arbitration and as noted under 718.1255.
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/09/2020 5:59 AM  
At the member meeting I expressed my opinion that voting via email did not meet the criteria of electronic voting. Before the vote of membership was taken, I had to leave the meeting. From the meeting minutes: >>A motion was made that our HOA adopt electronic voting in the form of
e-mail for any Special Meeting encompassing a single topic regarding an urgent ministerial matter.<< The most likely reason for a vote of the general membership would be because the BOD is only authorized to spend less than $500. Anything $500 or more needs HOA approval. I about feel out my chair when I learned this when moving to this community. Still, it's a small community and it would be extremely rare for such expenditure. We have a private road and a gate. Last year we had two gate repairs at $99 each. Yes, the time will come for a much larger repair bill or replacement. Same for road repairs. To call a meeting for such rare events is no big deal.

Anyway, I have learned that a electronic vote of the membership would not be for elections. Still, my question remains. How can electronic voting that is to follow statute happen by email? As far as how a quorum will be established, I suppose he will count the email responses to establish it.

Our documents do not provide for electronic voting and as of this morning I have convinced the Prez that we must hold a board meeting to adopt a resolution. If and when we have this meeting, if I can't convince him that voting via email is not in the spirit of the voting provision, I will vote against the resolution and I will ask that my reasons be recorded. I am sure that I will be the only member to vote this down.

Still, the reason I am writing this is to ask whether there is anyone who believes electronic voting can be accomplished via email and if so, how? If I am wrong that it can not, I want to know.

Thank you.
DeidreB
(Virginia)

Posts:76


03/09/2020 6:10 AM  
Toni I admit I only skimmed your state law (720) but agree with you. The requirements for authentication alone seems to invalidate mere email voting.

I take it your community is very small with only a gate and road. I have lived in some "microscopic" HOA's (less than 15 houses) that were VERY informal.
BobB31
(Florida)

Posts:178


03/09/2020 6:44 AM  
FS 720.317 is the relevant statute. I will not quote it in entirety - follow the link to read it. Here is the part that disqualifies voting by email:
(2) The association uses an online voting system that is:
(a) Able to authenticate the member’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 member who casts an electronic vote.
(d) 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 member. This paragraph only applies if the association’s bylaws provide for secret ballots for the election of directors.

Email is not suitable for any of these requirements.
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/09/2020 6:46 AM  
Small HOA. Informal. And I get that. And this voting issue is just only one many.

My prior experience is why I should not be on this board. My husband and I moved to this new community in 2019, but have been members since we purchased what was vacant property in 2017. We lived in our prior community for 26 years. It was a private community of 257 homes. My husband served on the transition team when the developer was turning over the HOA to it's members. I served for four years during the late 90's. And then in 2014 when HOA members became concerned about the operation of the HOA by the BOD serving at that time, I successfully led a recall. Following the recall I served as President. As a board we always, as should be, collaborated on all HOA business. We followed our ByLaws, Declaration and Statute. By the time we put our home up for sale, we were totally burned out with HOA's.

Whereas we would love to have nothing to do with an HOA, unless we live on several acres and distance ourselves from our neighbors, we want an HOA to protect our property values. This small community has an HOA, but because it's small, it seems everyone has to serve on the board at some time. Now I do have to say, a few neighbors never come to meetings and are rarely sighted. Smart people! They keep their distance! Yet, we want to be involved and be friendly neighbors. Thus, it means serving our time. YUK!

Anyway, I intend to serve my time, but then intend to step back and not get involved. I know too much to be involved. :-)
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/09/2020 6:49 AM  
Yes. I just can't convince our Prez of this. He believes he can satisfy the requirements... simply with email, read receipts, saving emails in folders, etc.

It is also my strong belief that a reason for third party electronic voting systems is to take the system out of the hands of a BOD. The manner of elections was just one of the reasons for a recall I led in my former HOA.
KerryL1
(California)

Posts:7037


03/09/2020 7:43 AM  
Unless you are a board of only two, can you get the other director(s) to vote with you against the prez?? Why does the prez have so much power?
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/09/2020 8:39 AM  
Posted By KerryL1 on 03/09/2020 7:43 AM
Unless you are a board of only two, can you get the other director(s) to vote with you against the prez?? Why does the prez have so much power?




Our docs state that we can have between 3-5 directors. Strange that our docs dictate that the Prez and VP will serve 2 year terms and other directors only 1 year term. And it should be staggered and I understood it was but somehow we were all up for election this year. For 2019 we had 5 positions. There was the Prez. The Prez's wife was secretary. We had a VP who resigned without explanation a couple of month's ago. I am serving as Treasurer. We had a member at large who's term was up and decided not to remain. No volunteers to take any of the positions. The board now consists of the Prez, his wife as VP and Secretary and me as Treasurer. So I will be outvoted. So be it. I will make sure the minutes reflect not just my down votes, but I will ask for it to reflect why. I would have stepped back and not served another year if I had someone to take my job. Who wants to be treasurer??? But next year, I'm done whether anyone steps up or not.

Had the Prez stated that he did not wish to remain on the board, my husband was ready to volunteer. But my husband did not want to serve while this person is Prez because he feared harming a friendship. And that's where I am trying my best to tread gently. Although I know he thinks me a pain in the arse, that I'm so contrary to what he wants to do and how he wants to go about it. I do continue to state my case, short of telling him he's being a dictator or anything that can drive a wedge that can not be undone. This couple, the Prez and his wife, are extremely nice people. Very welcoming ever since we purchased our lot. I know he wants the best for our neighborhood. He's just misguided in his position. He speaks of collaboration when referring to or meetings of the membership. But the spirit of collaboration is absent when it comes to the board. I believe he misunderstands his position.

I just want to enjoy my home, my beautiful surroundings and my neighbors. Not everything with neighbors is honky dory. But you do what you can to live in peace, when you can. My old neighborhood of 257 homes was big enough to speak and act forcefully if necessary. Now all of my neighbors are right here within my eyesight every day. So I'm trying to do what I can while on the board but keep friendships.

Thanks for listening!
DeidreB
(Virginia)

Posts:76


03/09/2020 9:12 AM  
Toni, I empathize with you having been in a small HOA myself a few times. I actually eventually resigned from one of those boards due to the discomfort of it all, retreating to my own home and prepared to pick my battles which I never had to fight because I suspect the remaining board members realized they were suddenly holding the reigns of responsibility all by themselves (all others had resigned as well).

Just a comment. I find it interesting that your By Laws and/or neighbors allow multiple owners from the same home to serve on the board simultaneously (Prez and VP). That's a lot of power at one address!

Then again, back to my earlier comment about the informality of very small HOA's

Best to you in your volunteer service to your community!
DeidreB
(Virginia)

Posts:76


03/09/2020 9:12 AM  
Toni, I empathize with you having been in a small HOA myself a few times. I actually eventually resigned from one of those boards due to the discomfort of it all, retreating to my own home and prepared to pick my battles which I never had to fight because I suspect the remaining board members realized they were suddenly holding the reigns of responsibility all by themselves (all others had resigned as well).

Just a comment. I find it interesting that your By Laws and/or neighbors allow multiple owners from the same home to serve on the board simultaneously (Prez and VP). That's a lot of power at one address!

Then again, back to my earlier comment about the informality of very small HOA's

Best to you in your volunteer service to your community!
JanetB2
(Colorado)

Posts:4211


03/09/2020 9:47 PM  
My last HOA was similar size regarding number of homes on lots varying from 2 acres to 6+ acres. It is harder on smaller HOA’s because yes everyone needs to be willing to take their turn serving to avoid a few people becoming burned out. We were lucky in that we generally had 100% participation for our annual meetings and voting requirements. Everyone serving in what ever capacity always backed up our decisions with proof of what was stated in our documents or state statutes, and everyone understood it was nothing personal regarding any issues as we were all just trying to follow the laws and CCR’s. I had one individual on ARC who I had to remind that you must treat everyone equally and cannot make excuses for any certain neighbor or friend. He needed to understand there is a fine line between HOA business and friendship and to be sure to keep them separate.

JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9299


03/10/2020 7:46 AM  
Toni

What is how the 26 vote such as issue with you? With only 26 it is easily checkable how they voted, or for that matter want to vote. Not saying the Pres. is right but I just do not see it as that big a dal in a small association. Little to no chance of cheating.
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 9:18 AM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 03/10/2020 7:46 AM
Toni

What is how the 26 vote such as issue with you? With only 26 it is easily checkable how they voted, or for that matter want to vote. Not saying the Pres. is right but I just do not see it as that big a dal in a small association. Little to no chance of cheating.




The communication via email is not problem. To vote whether the community would like to hold a BBQ next Saturday and everyone bring a dish isn't a problem. When it comes down to conducting HOA business, there are laws that govern such. The laws govern all associations regardless of it's size. As far as little chance of cheating... and I do not in any way believe that any cheating would take place in our association, I do strongly believe that if the legislature had any reason to believe that voting would take place via email, it would require a clear exclusion in the statute. One of the biggest reasons legislatures took up the governing of HOAs were the problems of boards running amok. I firmly believe they would not approve of a board member conducting association votes via his/her own email program.

But if this association wants to conduct business in such a manner, that is fine. However, I am not willing to participate.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:3048


03/10/2020 9:50 AM  
It may be there’s no clear answer to your question yet, as people are just starting to get into electronic voting and issues like security and verifying who’s casting the vote and if they’re eligible. This also means the law is behind, and that’s typical with new technology – even if there is a statute, it’ll likely be amended as people figure out what works and identify any unintended consequences to address.

I understand your concerns and I suppose the president is pushing this to increase participation and perhaps save printing and postage costs in mailing ballots (although if all the homeowners show up, it would be easier to just vote by a show of hands). As Janet pointed out, whether you do this or not will depend on your governing documents anyway.

So, it would seem both you and your board president need to step back, take a deep breath and do more research on the issue, look at the pros and cons and, then the community (not just you or the board president) can decide what to do next. Janet brought up some good questions for you to start with and you may want to have a chat with the association attorney to see what else may come into play.
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:3664


03/10/2020 11:33 AM  
Posted By BobB31 on 03/09/2020 6:44 AM
FS 720.317 is the relevant statute. I will not quote it in entirety - follow the link to read it. Here is the part that disqualifies voting by email:
(2) The association uses an online voting system that is:
(a) Able to authenticate the member’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 member who casts an electronic vote.
(d) 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 member. This paragraph only applies if the association’s bylaws provide for secret ballots for the election of directors.

Email is not suitable for any of these requirements.

It definitely is not suitable.
GeorgeS21
(Florida)

Posts:2299


03/10/2020 1:15 PM  
26 properties?

Hard copy mail or by hand delivery.

Don't make something simple, hard.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:9299


03/10/2020 3:00 PM  
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 03/10/2020 1:15 PM
26 properties?

Hard copy mail or by hand delivery.

Don't make something simple, hard.




I agree. The OP is making it difficult.
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 3:22 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 03/10/2020 3:00 PM
Posted By GeorgeS21 on 03/10/2020 1:15 PM
26 properties?

Hard copy mail or by hand delivery.

Don't make something simple, hard.




I agree. The OP is making it difficult.




I appreciate all feedback. Yet, I believe there is some comments being made without an understanding of the issue. Hard copy mail or hand deliver what? OP making it difficult? And for the comment that follows: If you are speaking of the original poster, how please am I making this difficult? Looking for feedback/validation of my feelings regarding the taking of an official membership vote via email? Pardon me, but may I kindly suggest reading and understanding the original post and subsequent comments? Thank you. :-)
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 3:29 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 03/10/2020 7:46 AM
Toni

What is how the 26 vote such as issue with you? With only 26 it is easily checkable how they voted, or for that matter want to vote. Not saying the Pres. is right but I just do not see it as that big a dal in a small association. Little to no chance of cheating.




I see that you have many postings under your belt so I will assume you have some good experience in HOAs. Why is this an issue? There is this thing in Florida called Florida Statute 720 that regulates HOAs, and that includes my HOA. Yes, I get it. Some people, some HOAs have no problem with disregarding rules and laws. But for some reason... I like to follow them. That's about all I can say.
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 3:31 PM  
Posted By DeidreB on 03/09/2020 6:10 AM
Toni I admit I only skimmed your state law (720) but agree with you. The requirements for authentication alone seems to invalidate mere email voting.

I take it your community is very small with only a gate and road. I have lived in some "microscopic" HOA's (less than 15 houses) that were VERY informal.




Thank you. I agree. It's why I'm here. Looking for validation and that I'm not being hard-nosed. :-)
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 3:33 PM  
Posted By JanetB2 on 03/09/2020 9:47 PM
My last HOA was similar size regarding number of homes on lots varying from 2 acres to 6+ acres. It is harder on smaller HOA’s because yes everyone needs to be willing to take their turn serving to avoid a few people becoming burned out. We were lucky in that we generally had 100% participation for our annual meetings and voting requirements. Everyone serving in what ever capacity always backed up our decisions with proof of what was stated in our documents or state statutes, and everyone understood it was nothing personal regarding any issues as we were all just trying to follow the laws and CCR’s. I had one individual on ARC who I had to remind that you must treat everyone equally and cannot make excuses for any certain neighbor or friend. He needed to understand there is a fine line between HOA business and friendship and to be sure to keep them separate.





Thank you. Yes, I served several years in my prior HOA and would love to have nothing to do with this one. But it is small, so I'm trying to do my part. And I agree with you. Business and friendship needs to stay separate. I'm trying my best to do just that! :-)
ToniG2
(Florida)

Posts:13


03/10/2020 3:34 PM  
Posted By GenoS on 03/10/2020 11:33 AM
Posted By BobB31 on 03/09/2020 6:44 AM
FS 720.317 is the relevant statute. I will not quote it in entirety - follow the link to read it. Here is the part that disqualifies voting by email:
(2) The association uses an online voting system that is:
(a) Able to authenticate the member’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 member who casts an electronic vote.
(d) 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 member. This paragraph only applies if the association’s bylaws provide for secret ballots for the election of directors.

Email is not suitable for any of these requirements.

It definitely is not suitable.




Thank you for the validation. It's why I'm here. :-)
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