When it comes to running board elections in a condo or co-op community, the biggest concern among those involved is making sure the elections are fair and balanced and nobody has a reason to cry foul. Elections can be heated as it is, so the voting process should run smoothly and without any hiccups. One election tabulation company representative remembers an extremely heated election she monitored where physical fighting even broke out. “It was bad,” she wryly recalls.
“Elections in associations can either be sleepers where there is a ton of apathy and you can't even get enough candidates to fill the seats to ones that are highly controversial,” says attorney Ron Perl of Hill Wallack in Princeton.
One of the most frequent dilemmas communities face is actually getting anybody on to the ballot in the first place. Robert Tierman, a partner with Litwin & Tierman, P.A., with offices in New York and New Jersey, remembers one co-op that had a problem of getting shareholders who actually wanted to run for a position on the board of directors. “This led to there not being an election; whoever wanted the position just got it,” he says. “The board was not fully constituted and there was a vacancy for a whole year. No major issues resulted from the situation but the board was less efficient and effective.”
So is the term ‘fair election’ an oxymoron? Although unfair elections—where there have been broken voting machines or improper ballot counting—make front page news, the truth is that it’s not common for elections to be unfair, at least technically speaking. On the other hand, it’s pretty easy to have a fair election for a co-op or condo board if these few basic guidelines are followed.
Follow the Bylaws
Check the bylaws to find out how often your elections should be held, and when. “The bylaws contain the term of office of board members and say when the elections should be held as well as the frequency of the election,” says Perl. “Most bylaws provide for staggered terms so that you most often have elections annually but I have seen associations where because of the staggering of terms they have elections two consecutive years and then the third year the election is skipped because no one's term is up. The true answer is you have to follow the provisions in your bylaws.”