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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


As corporations, HOAs must vote differently

Voting in a homeowners association election is more complicated and tougher to manage than it is in a government contest because of the weighted ballot system HOAs must follow.

Unlike the government standard of one person, one vote, HOAs must observe the rule of one vote per ownership unit. This is because HOAs aren’t governments, even though governing is one of their functions. They are corporations and, legally, property owners are that corporation’s investors.

As is the case with corporations, voting rights in HOAs are assigned to units of ownership, not people. An individual who owns seven lots, seven condominium units or seven shares of stock, for instance, can cast seven votes. That’s fair in the corporate sense because that individual has more at risk financially than someone who owns the minimum amount.

Where problems arise is in keeping track of who owns what and how many times they get to vote, since election administrators have to validate not just a voter’s eligibility, but also the level of ownership to which the owner is entitled.

HOA election officials and unit owners can also have difficulty with deciding who’s responsible for ensuring that an owner’s voting power is fully exercised.

Some of this burden must fall on the owner/investor, since that individual should know what they own and should not need elections officials to remind them. Neither should they need multiple ballots, which aren’t an option for shareholders in corporate elections.

Many online voting systems available to HOAs and condominium associations have simplified this process by registering voters, matching them to their ownership records and weighting their single votes accordingly.

As for owners who prefer to vote by paper ballots, they should vote once as well, and leave it up to election officials to compare ballots to the ownership records. That’s no more burdensome for administrators than going to the records before an election to decide how many ballots to mail.