It is that time of year when many associations are holding budget meetings and annual homeowner meetings. It is important that the integrity of the voting at those meetings be maintained, especially if there will be a vote on a special assessment or some other matter that may be contentious or controversial. If there is a subsequent challenge to the purported results of the election or other ballot measure it will often be focused on how the vote was conducted. This article discusses some common issues and steps to ensure that the meeting check-in is handled correctly in order to help maintain the integrity of the vote.
The association should have a current membership list showing the names of all homeowners within the community. The list should also indicate if any individual homeowners are not entitled to vote at the meeting. Some governing documents do not allow certain homeowners to vote such as homeowners who are not current in the payment of their assessments. Check your governing documents as to voting rights and when voting rights may be or must be suspended. Make sure the current membership list is printed and available at the meeting check-in table.
When a homeowner checks-in for the meeting, the association should confirm that the individual is a homeowner on the membership list and entitled to vote at the meeting. The secretary or other individual conducting the check-in should indicate on the list that the homeowner is present, has checked-in, and the homeowner should be issued a ballot for voting. Typically only one ballot should be issued per lot so multiple owners of the same lot should not be issued separate ballots. It is burdensome and time consuming to wait until the voting portion of the meeting to go back through the membership list to issue ballots.
According to Colorado law, proxies must be allowed at membership meetings. If an individual presents a proxy at check-in, the secretary should confirm that the proxy was issued by a member eligible to vote, accept the proxy, and then issue a ballot to the proxy holder. The secretary should indicate on the membership list that the ballot associated with that specific lot was issued to the proxy holder. This is especially important in circumstances where a homeowner gives a proxy and then subsequently attends the meeting.
For example, John and Sam are both homeowners and neighbors. Sam does not believe he will be able to attend the annual homeowner meeting so he gives a proxy to allow John to vote on his behalf at the meeting. John checks-in at the meeting and presents the proxy. John is then issued two ballots at check-in, one for him and the other to allow John to vote on Sam’s behalf. Sam then has a last minute change of plans and it turns out he can, and does, attend the meeting. When Sam goes to check-in for the meeting the membership list should indicate that Sam’s ballot has already been issued to John. The Secretary can then go find John and retrieve Sam’s ballot from John and give it to Sam to allow Sam to cast his own vote. Keeping good records as to ballots issued pursuant to proxies on the membership check-in list will ensure that the correct number of total ballots is issued and ballots can be retrieved if necessary.
Do’s and Don’ts
• Do have a membership list at check-in
• Don’t assume everyone attending the meeting is a member of the Association
• Do make sure that ballots are issued by the Association only to eligible voters
• Don’t just have a stack of ballots and allow individuals to pick them up
• Do accept proxies
• Don’t place additional restrictions on proxies or require specific forms be used
• Do track ballots that are issued in exchange for proxies on the membership list
• Don’t issue ballots in exchange for proxies without tracking the recipient of those ballots
Meetings can be stressful and difficult especially when there are hard decisions to be made or controversial issues to vote upon. Making sure the check-in for the meeting in handled properly can go a long way to ensuring a smooth meeting.
If you have questions or would like to further discuss your association’s meeting process please contact an Altitude Community Law attorney at 303.432.9999.