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OPA’s 2022 election still under microscope

By Cindy Hoffman

Staff Writer

(Feb. 23, 2023) There are still no firm decisions on how to address the voting discrepancies in the August 2022 board election. A September hand count of the ballots dropped the total number of votes from 9,053 to 8,113.

During the public comments segment of the board of directors meeting Saturday, former board member Amy Peck raised concerns about the lack of transparency related to the election committee and its work to address the election’s problems. She asserted that since the seating of the election committee, there has been no agenda or minutes posted to the website from their meetings, no audit shared, and an election report that was produced has not been shared publicly.

Later in the meeting, Tom Piatti, who chairs the committee, presented his findings to the board of directors. Piatti launched directly into his presentation with the recommendation that the Ocean Pines Association do away with electronic voting.

He also flagged some issues that were problems with the previous election. He said the paper used for the ballots was inferior and caused bleed-through when marked. He added that the scanner was set to two-sided and was counting the bleed-through marks as votes.

He further reported that the size of the paper made it difficult to place in the envelope and therefore caused extensive creasing which affected scanning. Technical issues aside, owners of multiple lots were only given the opportunity to vote once — it’s one vote per lot —  unless they specifically asked for multiple envelopes.

That affected 213 multiple property owners in Ocean Pines, for a total of 479 properties. In the 2022 election, the way they voted was weighted against all of their properties unless they asked for envelopes for all of their properties. It was made clear by multiple board members that property owners should be able to vote based on the number of properties they own. Therefore, if someone owns six properties, they get six votes.

There was much debate about the work of the committee, with board members Colette Horn and Steve Jacobs expressing concern that the committee did not follow through on what they were charged to do, and that the committee specifically recommended an end to electronic voting when it did not find any flaws in the electronic voting process.

“The problem was on the hard copy voting not on the electronic voting,” Jacobs said. “We run the risk of disenfranchising people at a time when frankly we should be looking to expand the pool of eligible voters participating in our elections.”

“I’ve lost confidence in this committee. We really need to look at the composition of the elections committee, make sure we have the right kind of talent on there to do what needs to be done to give electronic voting a fair assessment and find technology that will work for multiple lot voters as well as single lot voters,” Horn said.

“The critical part of the election is that every legitimate vote is counted, and every legitimate vote is counted properly. And clearly that did not happen in the last election,” Director Frank Daly said.  “The real question is what are we going to do in the next election?  Before we certify an election, I want to know how many lots voted and compare that to the votes that were cast.”

Association President Doug Parks wrapped up the discussion by saying, “Based on time, we should go back to what worked, because that is the path of least risk. But the idea is that we should have time to look at the electronic voting because I do see benefits in that.”

He suggested the board charge the elections committee with providing recommendations for how the association should proceed with this next election. He also emphasized that the committee should not abandon electronic voting.