Condo boards oversee condo corporation finances, physical property and daily operations, and have considerable authority.
Considering the authority granted to condo directors in making decisions on behalf of the condo corporation, the importance of avoiding election fraud cannot be understated. A board of unqualified individuals can do considerable harm to a condo corporation and cost condo owners many thousands of dollars each.
In Florida it has been reported that at least 30% of regulated common interest communities had complaints or were being investigated for condo election fraud or irregularity. Accusations include forged ballots, duplicate ballot casting, intimidation of owners to change their proxies and attempts to hide voting irregularities.
Condo election fraud can be prevented. Where condo election fraud occurs it can be detected and corrected.
Condo corporations have a declaration and by-laws, and the Condo Act, which stipulate the requirement for an annual meeting and election of directors. Procedures for meeting these requirements should also be specified.
One approach to election fraud is to not hold an annual meeting or postpone it for an indeterminate period. This allows current directors to remain in their position beyond their term. When a condo board fails to call an annual meeting as required, they can be compelled to do so by a legal court.
Failure to provide proper notice is another approach to election fraud. Lack of notice can result in failure to meet quorum which means legal business, including election of directors, cannot be conducted.
Manipulating the vote by changing who can and cannot vote is election fraud. Generally speaking, only condo owners or those provided with a proxy by an owner can vote. Individuals not current in paying condo fees may not be able to vote. Voting is usually limited to one vote per suite. Condo corporations should always maintain a list of who is entitled to vote. During an election each vote should be compared against this master list.
Proxy voting is a convenient way to meet quorum requirements and one of the more popular ways to manipulate a condo election. Proxies that list candidates for election prior to the meeting are biased against those who may be nominated at the meeting. Completed proxies should be inspected to ensure they are filled out correctly. Those not filled out correctly or unclear should not be counted.
One way to avoid election fraud is to have the process handled by an impartial individual. This individual may be the condominium manager, a lawyer or other individual familiar with the process. The individual can also be tasked with attending and moderating the meeting.
Online voting offers what may be the most effective method of avoiding election fraud. Online voting is faster and more convenient. It allows individuals to vote through their computer or phone while still allowing paper ballots for those that prefer this method. This single change makes it easier for meeting quorum requirements.
Online voting provides more accurate voting results and eliminates the need for a recount. It is harder to manipulate votes or to vote more than once per suite. Online voting and electronic proxies make it harder for election candidates seeking to collect proxies in advance of an election to ensure they are voted onto a board.
Online voting and electronic proxy services are impartial third parties that do not benefit from the outcome of a condo election. They have a vested interest in maintaining this impartiality while ensuring their systems are secure and cannot be manipulated.