With the winter season behind us, many associations are now turning their attention to the summer season and annual member meetings. However, as usual, many of the owners have headed for the flatlands and are no where to be seen. The question for the board is how to best permit absentee owners to participate in the meeting and cast their votes for matters properly before the members.
Two common ways to solicit absent owner participation is through the use of proxies or the use of mail ballots to conduct the election of directors. Both methods have advantages and disadvantages that will need to be considered prior to making an ultimate decision on which method is best for the association.
A proxy is a written document in which an absent owner (the “Proxy Giver”) permits a present owner or other individual (the “Proxy Holder”) to take any and all action that the proxy giver could take if they were present.
The proxies, when given must be presented to the association secretary who verifies the proxies and acknowledges that the proxy holder may act on behalf of the Proxy Giver.
Proxies may either be general or directed. General proxies contain no instructions on how the Proxy Holder should vote. Directed proxies instruct the Proxy Holder to vote on particular issues.
After the proxies are delivered to the association, the secretary of the association will give the Proxy Holder the ballot, one for each proxy held. However, if the owner who issued the proxy appears at the meeting, the proxy is revoked and that owner may vote in person.
The advantages to using proxies are that the members present at the meeting control the meeting and the association members may also take nominations from the floor of the meeting to encourage more participation in the meeting.
The disadvantage to using a proxy is that the absentee owner’s participation is through another person.
The second option is the use of a mail ballot. Unlike a proxy, a mail ballot permits the absentee member’s direct participation in the election of the directors. However, as a result, the slate of candidates must be set well before the formal gathering of owners.
When using a mail ballot, the association sends the ballot out to all owners instead of scheduling a meeting. The owners then return their completed ballots back to the association for counting. When using a mail ballot, the election does not actually take place at the meeting, but rather through the use of the ballot. Finally, unlike proxies, a mail ballot can not be revoked.
By using proxies and/or mail ballots, the Association can better combat owner apathy and the challenges presented by absentee owners.