This is the time of year when many Florida condominium associations conduct their annual meeting and election of directors. Here are some helpful reminders about the process to ensure that your community’s meeting and election avoid potential glitches and remain in compliance with Florida law.
Board membership should be viewed as being akin to a civic duty for condominium owners. So long as individuals meet the basic legal requirements, to wit: they are current on all of their financial obligations to the association and are not a convicted felon, they are otherwise eligible to run for a board seat in most associations.
The election notices that are distributed by the association to all of the owners begin with the initial notice that must be sent out at least 60 days prior to the election. This notice should include information on the deadlines for submission of notices to the association for those who intend to run for a board seat. All candidates must provide their association with a written notice of their intent to run for the board of directors at least 40 days prior to the date of the election. Registered candidates are then able to lobby their fellow owners, and they may submit a resume to the association at least 35 days prior to the election. The resume, which may not exceed one side of a standard piece of office paper, should contain details about a candidate’s professional and educational background as well as any other attributes and qualifications that they would like to include.
A second notice of the election, which must be distributed between 34 and 14 days prior to the election, must include copies of all the resumes submitted by the candidates together with the ballot and the inner and outer envelopes.
Keep in mind that the use of two envelopes is designed to help ensure confidentiality in the voting process. While the inner envelopes containing the completed ballots should not include any identifying voter information, the outer envelope must include the name of the voter, their unit number and their signature. Failure to include the unit number and a signature on the outer envelope will result in the envelope being discarded and not counted.
For the annual meeting itself, associations should make blank ballots and envelopes available for use by the owners who did not already vote by mail. It is not necessary for a quorum of the unit owners to attend the annual meeting in order to hold the election, however at least 20 percent of the owners must have cast a ballot in order for the election to proceed.
At the election, the tallying of the votes must be handled by a committee of independent and impartial unit owners who have been appointed by the board and do not include any current board members or their relatives, or anyone running for the board or their relatives. The committee is tasked with verifying that the voters identified on the outer envelopes are indeed eligible to vote and have signed the envelopes. Only once the outer envelopes have been verified and a determination made that at least 20 percent of the owners have cast a ballot, then the committee may open the envelopes and tally the ballots.
Bear in mind that while Florida law now allows for online voting for board elections, the traditional process of using paper ballots must also be made available to the members. Boards of directors that have adopted resolutions to offer electronic voting must utilize a system that verifies voters’ identity and eligibility.
Associations that wish to adopt online voting or have questions about all of the necessary procedures under Florida law and their own governing documents should work closely with highly qualified and experienced community association attorneys to help ensure that their annual meeting and election run as smooth possible.