Ask An Expert: About Your Condo, HOA Rules

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By: Steven R. Braten Esq. Special to the Boca and Delray newspapers
Q.  I am the president of my association.  The board would like to increase voter participation at our annual election meeting.  How do we implement electronic voting?
R.C., Boca Raton
A. Great and timely question! The first quarter of the year is typically when most community associations hold their annual meetings to elect new directors.  Historically, voter participation has posed a challenge to varying degrees in communities throughout Florida.  In response in 2015, the Legislature amended Florida’s Condominium Act and The Homeowners Association (HOA) Act to provide for electronic voting.  For HOA’s, the statute is Florida Statute 720.317 and Florida Statute 718.128 is for condominium associations.  These statutes permit a board of directors to authorize an internet-based online voting system (electronic voting) via a board resolution. The board resolution must (i) provide that unit owners receive notice of the opportunity to vote through an online voting system; (ii) establish reasonable procedures and deadlines for unit owners to consent, in writing, to online voting, and (iii) establish reasonable procedures and deadlines for unit owners to opt out of online voting after giving consent. The board must provide written notice of a meeting at which the resolution will be considered and the notice must be mailed, delivered, or electronically transmitted to the unit owners and posted conspicuously on the condominium property or association property at least 14 days before the meeting. Evidence of compliance with the 14-day notice requirement must be made by an affidavit executed by the person providing the notice and filed with the official records of the association. Now that we have covered the procedural requirements of authorizing electronic voting at owner meetings, here is the substance of what the resolution must include.  First, to vote electronically, each owner must consent in writing to casting votes online.  Secondly, the system implemented by the association must provide each owner with:
(a) A method to authenticate the owner’s identity to the online voting system.
(b) For elections of the board, a method to transmit an electronic ballot to the online voting system that ensures the secrecy and integrity of each ballot.
(c) A method to confirm, at least 14 days before the voting deadline, that the owner’s electronic device can successfully communicate with the online voting system.
The online voting system that the association implements also must be able to:
(a) Authenticate the owner’s identity.
(b) Authenticate the validity of each electronic vote to ensure that the vote is not altered in transit.
(c) Transmit a receipt from the online voting system to each owner who casts an electronic vote.
(d) For elections of the board of administration, permanently separate any authentication or identifying information from the electronic election ballot, rendering it impossible to tie an election ballot to a specific unit owner.
(e) Store and keep electronic votes accessible to election officials for recount, inspection, and review purposes.
While these are the basics, you should consult your association counsel to be sure you fully understand how electronic voting will work.  Also, there are a number of vendors that entered this new space in Florida, claiming they have a statutory compliant online voting system.  Be sure to obtain adequate assurances and please consult your association attorney before entering into a contract with such a vendor – or any vendor!
Steven R. Braten, Esq., is Managing Partner, Palm Beach of the Law Firm Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, PLLC, with offices located at the Sanctuary Centre in Boca Raton.  Visit www.GADClaw.com or ask questions about your issues for future columns by sending your inquiry to: question@GADClaw.com.  The information provided herein is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.  The publication of this article does not create an attorney-client relationship between the reader and Goede, Adamczyk, DeBoest & Cross, or any of our attorneys.  Readers should not act or refrain from acting based upon the information contained in this article without first contacting an attorney, if you have questions about any of the issues raised herein.  The hiring of an attorney is a decision that should not be based solely on advertisements or this column.