Association Board Member Elections

Cultivating, nominating and electing board members is something that should always be on the minds of current board members. Politics in any arena can be tricky, but in associations it can also

sometimes be difficult to find people willing to serve. Many people feel unqualified or even afraid to volunteer due to the fear of being taunted by potential disgruntled residents. While these fears are not wholly unfound- ed, current board members should encourage volunteerism by running fair elections, showing that residents with different types of views and knowledge are needed and desired, and letting potential candidates know their service will be valued, even if all residents don’t agree with every decision they make. Most associations have safeguards in place indemnifying board members from potential liability, so if a resident has the time and desire to serve, they shouldn’t be afraid to run for the board.

According to Prince, there is no legal requirement that an association have a written election procedure. It is unusual for associations to have one. However, as associations have been revitalizing their rules as of late, they have been including provisions governing all administrative operations, including the order and operation of members meetings where the election is held.

Prince explained that associations have to give notice to the members of any election meeting. The notice must be sent to the owners of each unit between 10 and 30 days before the election and must include the date, time and place of the meeting. If proper notice is not given, the election will be invalid.

Condominiums must hold elections each year. Associations that are subject to the Common Interest Community Association Act must hold elections at least once every 24 months. However, nearly every association’s bylaws will require them to have elections each year.

This is prohibited by law for all condominiums and associations that are subject to the Common Interest Community Association Act. For other associations, it technically could be used but must be in the bylaws.

Directors are those individuals elected to the board. Officers are members of the board that have specific roles and duties. In Illinois, all officers of condominiums and homeowners associations are also directors. The officers are selected by the board rather than by the membership.

It is unusual for an association to have a nominating committee. If the declaration or bylaws require a nominating committee, it will specify that the members of the committee will be either selected by the members or the board, generally at the annual meeting for the next meeting. The nominating committee’s job is to find suitable candidates to run for the board.

Yes, they are allowed unless the association has specific rules prohibiting nominations from the floor. Prince recommends that associations do not limit nominations from the floor due to practical implications. If a board of three has all seats up for election and only one person submits his or her name for the election, only one person would be elected, which could lead to administrative problems with the Secretary of State.

Prince has never seen an association that had prohibitions on self-nomination. Condominiums and associations subject to the Common Interest Community Association Act cannot ban self-nominations.

In Illinois, the board generally sends a ballot and/or a proxy listing the names of all individuals who submitted their candidacy by the required deadline. If an owner did not submit his or her name, the owner could attend the meeting and nominate him or herself from the floor. However, since the owner did not give prior notice by the required deadline, the owner’s name will not be listed.

Condominium boards are prohibited from indicating a preference for a specific candidate or slate of candidates. There is no limitation for non-condominiums but any endorsement should not appear on the ballot, proxies or other election materials and should be paid out of the board member’s personal money.

There is no authority for the board to request or demand a background check of board members. The board is not allowed to prohibit owners from running for the board. Thus, any requirement would only aide the board in the election process, sparking questions of the reasonableness of such a restriction.

Prince said that associations have to provide equal access to association facilities and publications. If the association requested biographical information of the candidates, it must distribute everyone’s submitted information to the members. If it is going to provide a platform for one candidate, it must do so for others.

According to Prince, boards have to be very careful if they try to do this. Since they are not supposed to endorse candidates, they do not want to use the association’s resources in fighting a war of words. Individual board members are free to campaign with what they believe the truth is, but it should not be an action of the association. The one exception Prince noted is where the false claims will cause confusion as to when and where the election will be held or how individuals can vote in the election. In such a case, the association needs to clear up the confusion to maintain the integrity of the election.

It is common for an association to require an owner to sign in for an election. If an owner refuses to sign in, the association is within its right to deny that person a right to vote. As for registering in advance of the election, individuals names need to be on the association’s records or show proof that they are the owner of the unit if their name is not on the records. No other registrations are required.

The process is simple, owners fill out their ballots and submit them to the association in accordance with the association’s election rules whether by proxy, by mail, through electronic means, or submitting a ballot in person. When the chair calls the end of voting, the ballots are collected and election judges generally count the ballots. The election judges are generally disinterested in the election in that they and their family are not running for election. After the votes are tallied, the results are announced to the members.

The election judges, the board and the property manager generally have access to the results as the end of the meeting is unfolding. Additionally, the candidates and their representatives can be present for the counting of the votes. Others interested in knowing about the outcome can submit a request, in writing, to review the ballots and proxies, which are held for at least one year.

A proxy is a legal document that allows someone to vote on behalf of another. The proxy stands in the shoes of the owner. The proxy must be signed and dated by an owner. Proxies come in two forms – directed and general. A directed proxy requires the proxyholder to vote a specific way on matters coming up at the election. A general proxy allows the proxyholder to vote as he or she wishes. Unless the association has rules requiring an owner to submit a proxy on a specific form, an owner can use his or her own form to submit a proxy. If an owner gave a proxy but also appears at the meeting, the proxy can be invalidated and the owner given a new ballot.

Prince stated that an association can ban proxies if it adopts a rule doing so or if it adopts rules authorizing voting my electronic means. Often, those rules must be approved at least 120 days before the next election. Beyond eliminating proxies, some bylaws state that an owner may only give a proxy to another owner. While it is unusual, it prevents third parties from being present and voting in elections.

The CCRs, bylaws or rules and regulations may address how a tie should be broken. Therefore, the board should look there first. Assuming those documents do not provide an answer and neither party bows out of the election, the tie can be broken via a run-off election, drawing lots, coin flip or even rock paper scissors. The parties to the election should agree to the method before it is used to ensure that it will be binding.

Unless the association has adopted specific rules establishing a process, an owner only needs to ask for a recount or send a notice challenging the election. The request can be made the night of the election or thereafter. Prince feels that the board should always grant a recount and respond to an election challenge. Assuming the result does not change after the recount and assuming that the board does not uphold the challenge to the election, the member’s only recourse is to file a lawsuit. Such challenges are rare.

What is cumulative voting? Cumulative voting allows members to cast more than one vote for a single candidate as long as they do not exceed their total number of votes. For example, if there are three vacant seats up for election and four candidates, a member could vote for one candidate three times, three candidates one time, or one candidate two times and one candidate one time. Cumulative voting is intended to give a political minority in the association a chance to have representation on the board. As it stands, the law allows for cumulative voting only if the CCRs or bylaws states that voting can be done cumulatively. However, there has been legislation introduced recently to get rid of cumulative voting altogether.

The election judges are the individuals who count the ballots after they are submitted. They review the ballots and determine the voters’ intent. The inspectors are generally members of the association and should not be a candidate up for election or related to a candidate up for election to avoid impropriety. With some elections being conducted by a combination of electronic means and in person ballots, the association may have two sets of election judges.