For those of you that are still not clear as to what electronic voting is or have certain misgivings about the process, then read on……
Firstly, I want to thank the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services for introducing electronic voting for condominium corporations in Ontario. It was in November 2017 that I first learned about electronic voting when I saw that amendments to the Condominium Act included new methods for voting at condominium meetings through the use of technology.
Since I had little knowledge of what “electronic voting” was and how it could be integrated into the voting process for condominium corporations in Ontario, my next step was to speak to condominium lawyers and managers in the U.S. who have been using electronic voting for years. It was interesting to learn that the process was the same from state to state with only minor differences relating to whether a condominium required owner consent, a board resolution, or a by-law before implementing electronic voting.
The conversations were all positive, especially the discussions with managers who previously had to worry about getting quorum for meetings and also had to deal with administering the votes at meetings. Not one lawyer or manager felt that going back to the old days of paper ballots and proxies was even a possibility. Electronic voting is the way that they are conducting their meetings and will continue to do so.
Since November 2017, I have been helping condos pass the bylaw required in Ontario to implement electronic voting and more recently, have been attending and chairing meetings for condos that are now using electronic voting. Given the overwhelmingly positive reception for electronic voting, I felt that it was time to share my experiences with others who may be contemplating using electronic voting for their condominium.
Last week, I chaired an owners meeting for a condominium corporation that has 388 residential units and had an electronic voting by-law. Eighteen (yes, 18!) candidates submitted their names to run for the five open board positions.
I must admit that I was a bit worried when management informed me there were 18 candidates running for the board. My concern was that with all those candidates, if proxies were submitted and electronic voting was not used, the voting process would be long, stressful and potentially contentious since each proxy would need to be reviewed as to its validity and the scrutineers would need to count each one together with the ballots.
15 days before the meeting, the notice of meeting was sent to the owners and then each owner received an email with a voting link, together with candidate information, so that owners could start voting electronically well before the meeting. Since there was an owner-occupied position to be voted for, the link provided for two electronic ballots – one for the owner occupied position and one for the four other board positions.
The meeting was scheduled to start at 7:00 pm. At 6:00 pm, management showed me the electronic voting report for each of the two ballots. In total, 288 of the 388 unit owners (74%) had voted electronically! The 25% quorum requirement had been surpassed within a few days of the electronic voting emails being sent to owners, putting everyone at ease that the meeting would proceed as scheduled.
Not everyone voted electronically. Some owners still wanted to vote at the meeting in person and in this case, 69 unit owners registered at the meeting and received paper ballots. Registration was a breeze with only 69 ballots, 4 proxies (yes, some owners still completed them), and the electronic voting report recording 288 votes.
When the time came to do the votes for the board of directors, the candidate speeches went relatively quickly. We then did the vote for the owner occupied position first, followed by the vote for the other 4 positions.
Many of us who have been to owners meetings know how time consuming and often contentious it is to count proxies and paper ballots. When there are two votes, the process can take hours. This is very frustrating for owners who are anxious to learn the results.
In this case, the entire whole voting process from start to finish was 30 minutes! It took only 15 minutes to count the votes for each of the two ballots because the scrutineers only had to review 4 proxies and 69 ballots and the remaining 288 votes were all clearly set out in the electronic voting report.
What did I learn from this process?
Owners that attended the meeting were extremely pleased- the meeting focused on what was important to them and not on legal wrangling or procedural issues.
Owners that were not in attendance were able to vote easily by clicking a link in an email and picking the candidates they wanted. They did not have to fill out a complicated proxy form or give someone else the authority to vote for them – and hope they did so.
The experience was so pleasant and easy that after the meeting both the Manager and the President of the management company told me they will never go back to the old way of proxy voting. Management needed fewer staff at registration, there were no concerns about making quorum, no need to send or explain complicated proxy forms to owners, and everyone spent far less time at the owners meeting. The management company was so pleased that it is now taking steps to implement electronic voting at all of its corporations.
Another comment I received was that electronic voting was a huge cost saving. The old way of voting by using proxies requires collecting all of the paper proxies submitted at the meeting, as well as printing out of all the electronic proxies that were sent in, so that each could be individually validated and manually counted. Electronic voting shortened the meeting, reduced the amount of paper used, and avoided all of the technical disputes that would normally consume time, effort and legal fees to resolve.
For those condominium corporations that want to experience what I experienced last week, the next step is to adopt an electronic voting by-law. This new by-law was introduced in Ontario in November 2017 and which only requires a majority vote at a meeting and NOT a majority of those units in the Corporation. CondoVoter has a sample electronic voting by-law which can be requested by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
CondoVoter’s monthly seminar will take place March 28 at 10:00 AM . Click here to get more information.