Blog

Florida HOA Elections

by
Categorized in: Company news, Election tips | 6 Comments
   

Florida CommunityA new statute in the state of Florida (effective July 1, 2015) permits homeowner associations to elect their leadership using an online voting system—something that had not previously been permissible. ElectionsOnline’s Evote has been used by HOAs in other states for several years and is happy to finally welcome Florida to the party. As evidenced by the increase in phone calls from Florida HOAs over the last month, this news is also very welcome by HOA staff as it will result in less burden on them and also increased voter engagement.

This article describes using Evote to conduct an HOA election in the state of Florida. Unfortunately, Florida’s lawmakers didn’t quite hit the nail on the head with some of the stipulations they included in the statute, so this how-to article will help you understand how to make sure those stipulations are satisfied as you’re using Evote to handle the online voting portion of your election.

The Stipulations

There are some caveats to the Florida law. Yes, the first couple of these are nonsensical and not in accordance with best practices for how to conduct an online election, but for so long as they are built into the law, they must be complied with. They are:

  • Have the owner’s written consent to online voting.
  • Test the system and confirm, at least 14 days before the vote that the owner’s computer, tablet, smartphone or other device communicates correctly with the system.
  • Have a method to authenticate the identity of the voter.
  • Have a method to ensure the secrecy and integrity of each election ballot.
  • Authenticate the vote itself (ensure it wasn’t modified or altered in transit).
  • Transmit a receipt to the voter.
  • Separate the identity of the voter from the vote itself.
  • Store and keep votes accessible for future record inspections or other purposes.

All of those requirements, with the exception of the first two, are things built into Evote. The first two are not technical system requirements, but rather, procedural requirements you will need to handle yourself and the steps that follow give advice for how to go about that. For the remainder, you do not need to do anything special to comply with them, other than to just use the service, as it’s intended to be used.

The How-To

The following provides step-by-step details for using Evote to conduct an HOA election in the state of Florida.

  1. Get owner’s written consent. There is no mechanism built-in to Evote to assist with getting an owner’s written consent. You will need to do this yourself through whatever means works best for you. Some ideas are:
    1. Mail all your owners/voters asking them to return a signed letter saying they agree to vote online.
       
    2. Have an online voter sign up form available at every function held at your association. Knitting classes, somewhere near the pool, at the tennis courts, et cetera and provide instructions on filling it out and dropping it into a drop box at the main office.
       
    3. Anytime an owner visits the HOA main office, staff should encourage them to register as an e-voter if they haven’t done so already.

      Fortunately, getting this signature is something you’ll only need to do one time, so once an owner’s provided consent, you will not need to go back to them year after year. While the initial effort is burdensome, it should gradually become less and less so as time goes on.
       
  2. Set up your election. This follows the standard procedure for using Evote.
    1. Create a client account.
       
    2. Set up your election following the instructions in the Conducting Elections With Evote guide available from the user guides page.
       
    3. Make sure to follow the instructions for testing your election setup which is also detailed in Conducting Elections With Evote.
       
  3. Confirm connectivity. You’re required to have your voters confirm they can access the ballot 14 days prior to the start of the election. To satisfy this requirement, instruct them to visit www.electionsonline.com. If they can do that—meaning they aren’t blocked from accessing it due to some firewall rule, or Internet connectivity issue on their end—then they are able to access the ballot and you’re all set.
     
  4. Conduct the election. You may still need to provide paper ballots to some voters and instructions on how to do that are included in Conducting Elections With Evote.

Conclusion

This is a welcome development. Though it may take some time for HOAs to fully realize the benefits because of a couple of the more burdensome stipulations built into the law, that burden should lessen over time. Those HOAs that adopt early will be the first to begin enjoying those benefits and remember, while this is new for Florida, this is not new. ElectionsOnline is a pioneer in online voting software and has been providing precisely this type of service for nearly 13 years and stands ready to finally begin offering it to the HOAs in the Sunshine State.

For more information, check out http://www.floridacondohoalawblog.com/2015/06/articles/legislation/florida-condos-hoas-are-you-ready-for-electronic-voting/.