In the digital age, many HOAs have turned to online voting for convenience. If you’re skeptical, weigh the pros and cons of HOA online voting before making your decision.
In this article:
Why Even Consider HOA Online Voting?
How many people are showing up regularly to your board meetings? If you are like most homeowners associations, you probably struggle with regular member involvement. With everyone juggling busy lifestyles and careers outside of the HOA, it’s difficult to get everyone together when governing your association.
Keeping members involved with what happens in your community is so crucial to its success. Increasing homeowner interaction prevents apathy in the association and ensures an attentive board. A solution for some HOAs has been turning to electronic voting as a way of increasing accessibility to participation in community governance. But, should your association really consider HOA online voting? Let’s find out.
Benefits of HOA Electronic Voting
Here are the benefits of adopting online HOA voting in your community:
1. No Physical Attendance Needed
Struggling to get enough votes during yearly board meetings can be detrimental to change in your community. The quantity of votes impacts essential decisions. This includes membership updates, budget approvals, and amendment of governing documents.
HOA online voting gives homeowners a chance to participate in such matters without requiring physical attendance. Holding HOA elections online also means you can meet a quorum in less time and without much effort.
2. Vote From Anywhere
For HOAs without online voting, homeowners usually have to go to a physical location to vote. With HOA electronic voting, that becomes moot. Residents can send in their votes for important matters from anywhere, just by using their mobile device or computer. As long as they have an internet connection, homeowners can vote with the tap of a button.
3. Cheaper in the Long-Term
Some HOA boards might think that setting up an online voting system will cost the association more money. But, in truth, HOA online voting is actually cheaper in the long run. Sure, you may need to invest in a program or software, but you’ll use it for the long haul. With physical voting, you need to design a homeowners association voting ballot, print them out, and then mail them to homeowners.
4. Safe and Accurate
Digitizing votes is a good way to ensure accuracy within your association. When you count physical ballots, a lot of things can go wrong. You might lose some of the ballots, homeowners might forget to mail them back, and erasures can be confusing. With online voting for HOA communities, those problems disappear. You can count on a computer to tally the votes without wasting any time.
Online voting is also a good way to combat fraud and tampering with ballots. With physical ballots, it’s all too easy to change someone’s vote or forge someone’s signature. It’s harder to do that with an online system.
5. Provides You With Statistics
If nothing else, online voting provides you with valuable voter data. A lot of online voting systems come with reporting functions, so you can easily evaluate figures. From there, you can see where your problem areas are. If not a lot of homeowners participate in voting, perhaps that’s a sign that you need to work on engagement. With such reports, you can improve your future efforts.
Challenges of HOA Online Voting
Although electronic voting has some big advantages, there are a few challenges involved. Outdated laws have traditionally been a barrier for some online voting for associations. However, over 20 states have changed HOA laws to allow electronic voting, so it’s less of an issue now.
Another concern has been security with electronic voting, but even that has improved in the last several years. Some residents may be uncomfortable with the process if they are worried about privacy or security, so HOAs should plan to provide plenty of information on what’s involved. Your HOA management company can help you plan for this.
One of the benefits of holding elections in-person is that it gives members an opportunity to get to know the candidates and the issues. Therefore, a big drawback of online HOA elections is voter ignorance. When members don’t know who or what they are voting for, they might not choose the best for the community.
While most homeowners may have no trouble voting online, others may find it more difficult. This includes the elderly and those who aren’t very tech-savvy. Although this is definitely a disadvantage, it’s also easily remedied. By organizing an orientation of sorts, you can teach homeowners how to vote online and even demonstrate the process for them.
Understanding State Laws and Governing Documents
Before you go charging to adopt online voting, you must first understand your state laws. In some states, homeowners associations can’t even use an online system for voting. This includes HOA email voting for elections. For instance, in California, board elections require ballots and two pre-addressed envelopes to be delivered to members physically, either in person or by first-class mail.
In addition to state laws, you must also check your governing documents to see whether or not they permit online voting for elections. Since online voting is fairly new, most HOA voting rules don’t allow for it.
If you wish to change that, you can try to amend your governing documents with the help of an attorney. Of course, that will usually require approval from the membership as well as remain in compliance with state laws.
How to Set Up HOA Voting Online
Setting up an HOA online voting system can seem like a daunting task to take on. But, with the right guidance and tools, the process is quite simple.
1. Check If It’s Allowed
The first thing you must do is to check your state laws and governing documents. You can’t transition to online voting if your state or documents prohibit it in any way. Proceeding with online voting in that scenario would open you up to liability. If state laws and your governing documents allow it, though, you can proceed to the next step.
2. Create a Resolution
With the help of your HOA attorney, create a resolution that includes all necessary information. Outline the procedures for online voting, how homeowners can participate, and any other details needed to comply with the law.
3. Notice and Approval
After that, it’s time to send out a notice to all homeowners. Again, depending on state laws and your governing documents, you may need a majority vote to proceed with an online voting system. Most of the time, though, the HOA board can make the decision to do so.
4. Start the Search Process
Assuming a majority of members are in favor, you can now research various HOA online voting software. There are plenty of companies and websites that can provide you with online HOA election services. There are even free HOA voting software or programs you can get online, though those may not be as reliable or secure.
Send out requests for proposals and then evaluate the bids of each company. You can do this with the help of your HOA manager. Select one that suits your needs and price range.
5. Educate and Adjust
Some homeowners may not know how your new voting system works, so it’s worth taking the time to educate them. Hold a seminar or send them a how-to video if you have one available. You might also want to distribute instructions through various communication channels. Prior to the actual election, perhaps you can do a test run just to make sure everything’s working and everyone knows how to use it.
As with most new experiences, you may need an adjusting period to get used to the online voting system. But, with time and dedication, your association will reap its many benefits.
The Decision Is Yours
Although maintaining involvement and votes in a homeowners association can always be a struggle, HOA online voting is an option worth considering, especially in communities with larger numbers. Ultimately, though, the decision lies with your HOA board (provided your state laws and governing documents allow it). Check with your HOA attorney to see if online voting is right for you.