By Greg Ellison
(Nov. 25, 2021) In addition to changing chairperson assignments, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee examined final edits for an annual report and pondered ways to improve the elections process at its meeting on Friday.
Chairman Steve Habeger offered his resignation, noting that his term and that of member Mark Heintz had expired in September but were extended into November.
Habeger said two new members, Joseph Peloso and Jeannie Pennington, were slated for approval at the board of directors meeting on Saturday.
Despite leaving the group, Habeger said that after serving three terms they both would follow association elections.
“We’re not going to go away,” he said. “You can expect to hear from us in the future.”
The committee voted unanimously to appoint Carol Ludwig as the new chairperson.
“This is the passing of the baton,” Heintz said.
Habeger reviewed the status of an annual report nearing completion, and
encouraged members to limit the report to reviewing past events. He also discussed ways the elections might be improved, such as ways to boost voter participation.
“The Elections Committee is considering a number of alternatives to improve the election process,” he said.
He also suggested that the committee prepare a separate report outlining some of the changes that could be considered.
One such area in need of improvement is assuring that ballots are received by the submission deadline.
Habeger said recent subpar service from the U.S. Mail has exacerbated the challenge, noting nearly 300 ballots were received after deadline for the most recent board election.
Committee member Bob Windsor said the Parke neighborhood opted to switch from mailing in ballots to electronic voting for its board election three years ago.
“We haven’t had any issues,” he said.
Windsor said a computer (and help on how to use it) is available to Parke residents without online access.
Parke ballots include a code for voting online or over the phone.
“The goal is to make it easier to vote and increase percentages,” he said. “You can vote by phone, so we totally eliminated the post office as far as late ballots.”
Habeger said the bylaws require all property owners to be notified by mail regarding the date, time and location of the annual meeting.
“We piggyback that required posting with election materials,” he said.
While bylaws do not require mailing election materials, Habeger said switching to online options might meet some resistance.
“There are people that will be opposed to it,” he said.
Other election scheduling challenges include current deadlines for candidate applications by May 10, with the association secretary required to submit a final list to the committee by June 1.
Heintz said in past years there was an unsuccessful push to have the Search Committee solicit candidate applications sooner than May 10.
“What would be next steps to shorten the dates?” he asked.
Habeger proposed moving the dates forward a month, with applications due by April 10 and final candidate list due May 1. Such a change, he acknowledged, would have to be approved by referendum.
Habeger said he would complete edits on the committee’s annual report before turning it over to Mary Anne Whitcomb for formatting. The report would then go to the board.