Homeowner associations are designed to be representative democracies governed by a board of directors elected by the members. Electing directors to the board that can thoughtfully govern is extremely important. To accomplish this, elections must be carefully planned, not hatched at the last minute. Here are important components of a successful election process:
Find Worthy Candidates.
When seeking nominations, a job description should be prepared so potential candidates know what is expected of them. Some refuse to run because they fear the unknown or an open-ended commitment. The director job and term of office can easily be summarized in a paragraph as can the descriptions of officer jobs (president, treasurer and secretary). Take the time to make sure all potential candidates understand and commit to fulfilling the job description by informing them of expectations in advance.
Candidates are identified a number of ways:
1. By a Nominating Committee. The board can appoint a Nominating Committee which can identify, interview and recommend certain individuals for election. While the Nominating Committee's recommendations are worth of considering, any member in good standing is still entitled to run for office even if not recommended by the Committee.
2. Nominated by Self or Others. Any member may nominate themselves or be nominated by another member. It's best to do this as soon as the nomination process begins, far in advance of the annual meeting, so the name and credentials can be known to all members. Since it is common for some members not to attend the meeting and to provide a proxy to someone that does, if a candidate is not known in advance, those not attending the meeting will not have the ability to support that candidate.
3. Nominated at the Annual Meeting. Nominations are usually accepted from the floor at the annual meeting. Unfortunately, this option fails to inform members who have not attended the meeting, It is often difficult to get elected when nominated from the floor unless there are not enough candidates to fill vacancies.
4. Write-in Candidate. Writing someone's name on a ballot does not ensure that person is actually qualified for the job or interested in running unless the person was nominated from the floor.
Candidates should present their qualifications and platforms to the members in writing. This can be done door to door, by email, by letter, in the HOA newsletter, by the HOA website and at the annual meeting where the candidates can also answer questions posed by owners. Since some members may not be able to attend the meeting, circulating candidate qualifications before the meeting is very important.
It is definitely in the HOA's best interest to identify candidates who have experience that will benefit the HOA such as:
Having an organized president is essential. Seek those that are comfortable in that role.
Having a treasurer who regularly works with financial matters like a bookkeeper or CPA.
Having a secretary who understands or can learn to art of minute taking.
Having directors that are available and committed to attend all board meetings. This requirement cannot be understated. If board meetings fail to achieve a quorum or directors, official business cannot be done.
Conducting an Election.
This is a relatively straight forward process. Remind the voters that all candidates are running for director positions, not offices (president, treasurer or secretary). Officer positions are decided by the board itself and subject to board majority vote. While certain candidates may be running for election and hoping for a certain office, it doesn't always turn out that way if there are two or more directors vying for the same office.
If the HOA has many voting members, elections should be conducted early in the meeting so the results can be tabulated and announced during the meeting. Election inspectors should be appointed to count the ballots and certify that the results are accurate. Inspectors should have no interest in the election outcome. Winners should be announced during the Annual Meeting with terms to start immediately following the meeting.
Voting in Person or by Proxy.
Ideally, each member should attend the annual meeting in person to cast a ballot. However, for a variety of reasons, some may choose to assign their voting rights to a "proxy". A proxy is the written authorization that allows one person to appoint another (the proxy holder) to vote on his behalf. A proxy holder can usually be any one of legal age and is not required to be an HOA member. So proxies can be given to relatives, friends, attorneys and others. State law and the HOA's governing documents may specify whether proxy voting may be used and may address the type of proxy (general or directed) and content of the proxy. A general proxy allows the proxy holder to make the decision on behalf of the proxy giver while a directed proxy requires the proxy holder to carry out the proxy giver's specific directions. For a sample proxy, go to Regenesis.net.
Good board members act to protect the interests of all members. Handle the candidate selection process carefully by seeking out the best candidates available. When it comes to board elections, rather than expect a train wreck, elect the select!
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