Electronic Voting Platform Compromises Security

March 2022

Toronto Condo News has been a strong advocate of electronic voting.  It is becoming evident that, for some communities, the technology is being used to manipulate election results.  The recent disclosure that a popular electronic voting platform has compromised the security of electronic voting and tainted the results of thousands of condo elections is troubling.

Condo owners are being assured votes are secure and confidential by their boards and management.  Many have been untruthful.

GetQuorum, a popular electronic voting platform for condominium communities, has acknowledged that their platform fails to ensure voting remains confidential until an annual general meeting.  The company works with thousands of condominium corporations, property management companies and other groups using what they claim is a secure online platform.  What they fail to disclose is that their platform can be used to manipulate the outcome of condo elections.

The company has benefited from strong demand for electronic voting and virtual meetings during the pandemic.  In a Globe and Mail article, GetQuorum CEO Ben Zelikovitz did not deny it is possible for someone with access to his company’s software to obtain a running tally of a vote in progress or to act unethically.

Condominium owners who vote using the GetQuorum electronic voting system have been unaware that their votes are available in advance to those running the election.  This is a breach of confidentiality – owners have been under the impression that their early voting is not known prior to the election date and potentially used to manipulate the outcome of condo elections.

Among condo owners there is an expectation, or belief, that voting results are not disclosed until after an election period closes.  After clicking ‘submit ’on a ballot screen, it should be impossible to disclose individual vote choices, and there should be no way to obtain advance viewing of election results until after an election period has closed.

GetQuorum apparently views early vote result disclosure as an acceptable feature desired by those who run condo elections.  In an e-mail communication with Toronto Condo News, Ben Zelikovitz confuses proxies with voting when he states that “property managers have always had access to, and been trusted custodians of, proxies prior to the meeting.”  Proxies are intended to ensure those eligible to vote can do so.  They were never intended to serve as a vehicle for influencing votes or affecting the outcome of condo elections.

Some condo boards or directors desire advance access to real-time voting information.  It allows them to know which way a vote is going, and change their messaging accordingly in an effort to achieve a different result.  It provides them with a way to influence the outcome of elections without owners being aware.  This provides an unfair advantage to an incumbent director or anyone supported by the board.

Ontario has virtually no rules governing what form of electronic balloting is acceptable and no regulations defining what sort of confidentiality owners should expect.  Most electronic platforms recognize the need for confidentiality of advance voting to maintain the integrity of elections.

Thousands of condominium elections are now suspect.  Complicit parties include GetQuorum, property management companies and condominium managers that recommended GetQuorum, and condo boards.  It is hard to believe that none were aware of the ability to access advance election results and saw nothing wrong with this.  Claims that this feature was not utilized are not believable.  Given the availability of electronic voting platforms, some of which are used in municipal elections throughout Ontario and do not disclose advance voting results, there has been widespread failure to undertake a reasonable level of due diligence or an intent to deceive voters in condo elections.  Adoption of electronic voting during the pandemic has, for some, become an opportunity to manipulate the results of condo elections.

Manipulating condo elections through an electronic voting platform is easier than other approaches to controlling election results.  In an unrelated matter, the condo board of Mondeo Springs, TSCC 1737, have been fighting a lawsuit regarding a contested May 2019 election.  The lawsuit charges the board with preventing candidates from campaigning to obtain proxies, dismissing valid proxies without reason, and writing ballots to match proxy forms to ensure re-election of directors.  Legal fees have thus far exceeded $200,000.

Regulatory bodies appear toothless.  The Condominium Authority of Ontario (CAO) issued a statement encouraging condominium corporations to look for voting platforms that are secure and confidential. Condominium Management Services Act (CMSA) – section 54 – appears clear that condominium managers are not allowed to interfere in condo elections.  The Condominium Management Regulatory Authority of Ontario (CMRAO) publishes a guide that states “Condo managers must be careful not to communicate with unit owners in a way that could suggest they are trying to… influence the election of a director.”  In response to this controversy, CMRAO published a notice that states “condominium managers are required to follow the same ethical obligations surrounding the use of proxy forms when administering electronic voting processes”, and “managers should never use or share information about advance voting patterns in an attempt to influence the results of a vote.”

Given the scale of unethical or presumed unethical behaviour, electronic voting with GetQuorum is no longer viewed as just a way to monitor voting.  Condo owners should be reluctant to trust condo boards that have utilized this platform.  Some owners are likely to refrain from electronic voting in all forms thus making it harder to achieve quorum for annual general meetings.

Condo owners require assurances that their advance votes cannot be used to manipulate the outcome of condo elections, and that there will be severe consequences for those who attempt to do so.