As the calendar turns to fall and we approach the end of the year, it is time again for board members and managers to make sure they are prepared for their annual meetings, including board elections. While running an effective election is critical for every association, it shouldn’t be a stressful or dreaded event. By following a few simple steps, you can ensure your election goes off without a hitch and according to Florida law and your association’s governing documents.
Candidate Requirements And Information Sheet
Boards should first be aware of who can and cannot appear on the ballot for election to the board. Convicted felons may not serve on the Board, unless their civil rights have been restored more than 5 years prior to the election. A person who has been suspended or removed from any association board by the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes is also not eligible to be a candidate. Additionally, all candidates must be current on their assessments and other monetary obligations (it is recommended that the association complete a thorough audit of all accounts prior to the election).
Also, if the association has more than 10 units, then co-owners of units may not simultaneously serve on the board. Your association’s governing documents may have additional information on candidacy, such as who, if anyone, is eligible to run for the board when a unit is owned by a corporation or other legal entity.
All eligible candidates desiring to run for the board must give written notice to the association of their intent to run, and must give that notice at least 40 days in advance of the election. Once the association has received notice from a candidate that he or she intends to run, it must give him or her a receipt for acknowledgment of the notice.
Once registered, candidates are permitted to campaign and lobby their fellow owners. Candidates can submit a person information sheet, not less than 35 days prior to the election, which may not exceed one side of a standard piece of office paper. The information sheet can contain information about the candidate’s background, education, qualifications, and other attributes the candidate believes are relevant. As discussed below, the information sheet must be sent out to the association’s members by the association in advance of the election, but the association may not alter or edit the candidate’s information sheet. The candidate is also allowed to do in-person campaigning, such as discussing his or her qualifications with neighbors.
Notices From The Association
Once the board has determined those owners who are eligible to run, it then has to send out notices of the election to the unit owners. The first notice must be properly sent to owners at least 60 days prior to the election. This notice informs the owners that, if they wish to run for the board, then they must submit their notice of intent to do so, in writing, to the association at least 40 days before the election (as mentioned above).
A second notice of the election must also be sent, not less than 14 days, but not more than 34 days, prior to the election. This notice is especially important, and must include any personal information sheets submitted by each candidate, as well as ballots and envelopes for voting. It should be noted that Florida law does not allow for the use of proxies when conducting board elections.
The ballot is required to list all of the eligible candidates, in alphabetical order by last name. Voters are not allowed to write-in candidates. The ballots also should noyt contain any space for signature or other information identifying the voter. With very limited and rare exceptions, the ballots must be uniform in size, color, and appearance.
When the second notice is sent by the association, it must provide each owner with at least one outer envelope, one inner envelope, and one ballot; the envelopes are used for returning the completed ballots and ensuring confidentiality in the voting process. The smaller, inner envelope is for returning the completed ballot, and it should not contain any identifying information on it. The outer envelope should be pre-addressed to whomever is designated to receive ballots for the association. The outside of the envelope must have a place for the name of the voter, his or her unit, and the voter’s signature.
Once the ballot is completed, the owner places the smaller envelope inside the smaller envelope, and then sealed and returned. If an owner owns more than one unit, multiple smaller envelopes can be placed inside the large envelope, but the smaller envelopes may not contain anything more than one ballot. The sealed outer envelope is then returned to the association.
A board member’s term expires as of the date of the annual meeting, so the election of your board members should occur at the same date, time, and place of your annual meeting. A quorum of owners is not needed to attend the annual meeting to validate the election, but 20% or more of the owners must participate in the election for it to be valid. Additionally, there should be blank ballots available at the meeting for those owners who chose not to vote by mail. The vote tally is handled by an impartial committee, appointed by the board, but not containing any board members, nor anyone related to them.
The committee must ensure that the voter identified on the outer envelope is a qualified voter. If the outer envelope is not signed by an eligible voter, then the ballot is not counted. Relatedly, an association is well-advised to ensure that any unit owned by a business entity, trust, or other non-human entity has properly designated a representative to vote on its behalf, pursuant to the association’s governing documents.
Florida also recently adopted a statute allowing for online voting for boards of directors. Electronic voting is allowed, but paper voting must still be offered. However, the board must make a resolution to adopt electronic voting at a board meeting that is announced at least 14 days prior to the election. Additionally, the board must obtain consent of the owners, and the system needs to be able to verify the voter’s identity and ownership. There are specific and somewhat complicated requirements for electronic voting, so boards who elect this otion must be very careful to ensure compliance.
Within 90 days of being elected, all board members must certify in writing that he or she has read and understands the governing documents and will faithfully discharge his or her obligations, or may submit evidence of completion of an educational seminar conducted by an individual approved by the Division of Condominiums, Timeshares, and Mobile Homes.
Challenges Of Election Results
If an owner objects to election results, he or she has 60 days to challenge the election. For more details on challenging an election, please see our excellent blog post on this topic.