Electronic Voting has been adopted by many condominium corporations, so it is time to dispel some myths about what Electronic Voting is and what it is not.
- Myth No. 1 – Electronic proxies are “online voting” or electronic voting.
Electronic proxies involves completing a proxy through an online form, appointing another person to be their proxy. A paper copy of the proxy is then created and provided to the condo corporation.
Electronic voting is an online tool used to submit a ballot. It does away with the need for proxies and the issues that come along with them.
- Myth No. 2 – The Condominium Act contemplates Electronic Proxies.
The Condominium Act, 1998 (the “Act”) refers to voting by proxy or in person, but does not specifically refer to proxies completed electronically.
- Myth No. 3 – Proxies are required for meetings.
Over the years managers and condo corporations have struggled with trying to achieve quorum for meetings. The only mechanism short of trying to get people to come to the meetings was to get a proxy. The Act allowed proxies but proxies were never mandated nor required to be provided to owners or included in notice packages.
Proxies are complicated and while they must be accepted if submitted at a meeting, they are not required to be used.
- Myth No. 4 – Electronic Voting does not count toward quorum.
The Act now allows electronic voting if a by-law is enacted. Similar to other by-laws, legal counsel will determine what provisions to include in the by-law. These provisions should include reference to “quorum”.
To interpret electronic voting as not being a vote counting towards quorum would mean that owners that actually cast their vote by mail, email or fax, even though they have cast it personally, would not count towards quorum.
Quorum is achieved by voter turnout, which tends to be higher with electronic voting than paper ballots and proxy voting.
- Myth No. 5 – Electronic Voting should not be used – owners need to know what is presented at the meeting before they cast their vote.
In an ideal world, condo owners would attend all condo meetings in person and voting would take place on-site.
This is simply not the reality in today’s condo market. People are busy, they are traveling or have family obligations, or the condo owners are renting out their units and live elsewhere. Why give someone else your proxy unless you know and trust that person to make the decision for you? Would you give your vote to someone in a provincial or federal election or make arrangements to vote by other means?
In my experience, most highly charged and contested owners meetings usually are the result of situations where the proxy is given to one of the members of the board or to an owner seeking to manipulate or control the voting process. With proxies, if you complete the proxy ahead of time with your chosen vote or selection of candidates for the board election, the proxy holder has no authority to make any changes. Your proxy holder may forget to register the proxy or fail to show up to the meeting – which would mean your electronic or paper proxy has the risk of not being used!
If you still want to give someone a proxy through electronic proxies or a paper proxy, you can always do so, but if you are directing that proxy holder to vote in a certain way there is no way to find out if and how they actually voted.
Electronic voting enhances electoral integrity by removing the potential for outside interference and proxies not being registered.
- Myth No. 6 – Electronic voting will discourage participation at the meeting.
Electronic voting is getting greater participation by owners who would never complete a proxy or attend a meeting. The turnout rates have shown numbers as high as 90% participation. Over 144 municipalities in Ontario use online voting for municipal elections. Owners who usually attend meetings will continue to attend. But those that cannot attend will benefit from the ability to vote online, resulting in greater condo owner engagement, higher voter turnout and streamlined tabulation.