As many of you know, the 2015 legislative regular session has concluded. Several laws affecting condominiums, cooperatives and homeowners associations were passed this year, the most relevant and important to associations being HB 791.
Over the course of the next several months, we will be discussing some of the relevant changes to association law which have been presented to the Governor and which are expected to be signed. If signed it will not be effective until July 1, 2015. Therefore, we will keep you apprised of any developments in the future.
HB 791 PROPOSALS
One of the most interesting proposals in HB 791 is to allow electronic voting for membership votes in condominium associations, cooperatives and homeowners associations. Section 718.128, Section 719.129 and Section 720.317 would all be created to allow electronic voting under certain circumstances. Associations would be allowed to conduct elections and other unit owner votes through an internet-based online voting system if a unit owner consents, in writing, to such online voting and if the following requirements are met.
1. Association must provide each unit owner with a method to authenticate the unit owner's identify to the online voting system and, for condominium and cooperative elections, a method to transmit an electronic ballot to the online voting system that insures the secrecy and integrity of each ballot.
2. For a homeowners association election, the system must provide each unit owner with a method that is consistent with the election and voting procedures in the association's bylaws.
3. The system must provide a method to confirm, at least 14 days before the voting deadline, that the unit owner's electronic device can successfully communicate with the online voting system.
4. Associations, under the proposed law, are required to use an online voting system that is able to authenticate the unit owners' identify, able to authenticate the validity of each electronic vote to insure that the vote is not altered, and able to transmit a receipt from the online voting system to each unit owner who casts an electronic vote.
5. For elections of the board of directors in a condominium or cooperative (or where secret ballot elections are authorized by a homeowners association's bylaws), the online voting system must be able to permanently separate any authentication or identifying information from the electronic election ballot, rendering it impossible to determine and establish that election ballot was tied to a specific unit owner.
6. The online voting system must be able to store and keep electronic votes accessible to election officials for recount, inspection and review purposes.
It is important to point out that a unit owner voting electronically, pursuant to the proposed law, will be counted as being in attendance at the meeting for purposes of determining a quorum. A unit owner's consent to such online voting shall remain valid until such time as the unit owner opts out of the online voting system according to procedures established by the board of directors pursuant to board resolution.
At this time, we are expecting this bill to become law, and we will keep you apprised of any new information. However, it is important to point out that, after July 1, 2015, should an association wish to adopt electronic voting procedures, it will be very important to consult with legal counsel to make sure all of the requirements in the statute have been met and to insure that all voting procedures are properly adopted by the board.