Counting Paper Ballots in Community Association Board Elections – Avoiding Mistakes and Assuring Accuracy

May 13th, 2023 | Community Association Law Blog

By Eric F. Frizzell, Esq.
May 12, 2023

It is the night of your community association’s annual meeting and there is a hotly contested election for the Board of Directors, which is being conducted by paper ballot. Candidates and unit owners anxiously await the results, which could dramatically change the composition of the Board. Leading up to the meeting, you have carefully complied with all of the requirements of the “Radburn” amendments and regulations.

Voting has closed. You have removed the ballots of any unit owners who are not in good standing and have resolved any question about any duplicate ballots from the same owner. It is now time to count the votes in public.

You are using a double envelope system and the inspectors of election have removed the ballots from their envelopes and placed them in a pile on a table. (Note that if voting is weighted by shares, such as in cooperatives, or by percentage interest, instead of by one vote per unit, be sure that the number of shares or percentage interest appears on each ballot. If Management has not utilized a program that automatically inserted the shares/percentage interest on the ballots at the time of mailing to the unit owners, the inspectors will need to add them by hand at the time each ballot envelope is opened, while maintaining the required anonymity of the ballots).

The inspectors look at the huge pile of ballots and then look to you for guidance on the next daunting step – how should they actually count the ballots? Even one mistake can affect the outcome of the election! The devil is in the details! Based on our law firm’s experience with more than 400 annual meetings, we have found that the best method to assure the accuracy of tallying paper ballots involves four inspectors of election, as follows.

1. One inspector of election reads aloud the votes on a ballot.

2. A second inspector double-checks the ballot to make sure that the first inspector announced the votes correctly.

3. A third inspector enters the votes onto an Excel spreadsheet (that Management has carefully checked beforehand to make sure its formulas are correct).

4. A fourth inspector watches to make sure that the person inputting the votes on Excel does not make a mistake.

If you are manually tabulating the votes instead of using a computer, then the third and fourth inspectors should each separately tabulate the votes on paper and, every twelve ballots or so, stop and check that their totals match. If they match, then the inspectors should place that group of ballots aside in a separate pile and resume counting. If the totals do not match, the inspectors must recount those ballots to identify and correct the error.

Simple, right? And effective – in the vast majority of elections our firm has supervised, there have been errors in the tabulation process that thankfully have been quickly caught by utilizing this system.

As always, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Eric F. Frizzell

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.