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COVID-19 Forcing Boards To Reevaluate The Election Process By Katelyn R. Kaman, Esq.

Katelyn R. Kaman, Special Counsel

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced most of us to remain at home and avoid large gatherings of people.  The resulting impact that it will have on community associations remains to be seen, but one issue that will continue to be a hot topic of discussion is how the election of board members for community associations may permanently change. 

Community association boards all across Ohio are taking a close look at the fine print in their governing documents to determine if they are able to have their owners submit their votes for board members directly to the association without the owners physically attending an annual meeting or having their proxy attend the annual meeting on their behalf.  Whether this is permitted solely depends on if the association’s governing documents allow for advanced mail-in or electronic ballots to be distributed to the owners prior to the date of the annual meeting.  If the governing documents do not allow it, then the board may consider proposing an amendment to the governing documents, which requires approval of the owners to be effective.

As boards consider whether their association’s governing documents should be amended, following are a few of questions that should be discussed before making a final decision:

  1. Historically, does the association have a high attendance rate of owners at the annual meeting each year? If so, there may be a stronger likelihood that an amendment to elect new board members prior to the meeting may not be supported by owners in the community.
  2. If the board wants to pursue an amendment, should it make the change to voting for directors before the meeting permanent? Or should the amendment only require advanced voting if the traditional in-person annual meeting of the members cannot occur due to a local, state, or national emergency, order, or other similar circumstance?
  3. Does the association have the ability and funds to dedicate to a mail-in or electronic ballot process that will require more involvement, either by the manager or the board members, to administer? Additionally, secrecy of the ballots must still be maintained, even if the votes are conducted on ballots submitted prior to the annual meeting, and so, determining how the election process can be conducted before the meeting may be a challenge.

These are just some of issues that a board should evaluate before making a decision to amend their governing documents.  If an amendment is pursued and does pass, board members and owners will be comforted to know that the process to elect new board members will remain intact when challenging circumstances, like COVID-19, are presented.

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