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Maine Alliance for Road Associations

Voting by Email

  • 03 Apr 2023 8:03 PM
    Message # 13155669

    The lot owners of the Hardy Farm Road-Rt.133 Association requested that I obtain clarification about voting by e-mail on agenda items before the lot owners at all meetings.   Last year’s bylaws revisions were defeated at Annual Meeting because our Article X stated that email voting was not allowed on contracts for repairs & maintenance.  My questions are:   

    Why is voting by email prohibited in MRS Title 23, section3101, subsection 5?

    When is voting by email allowed for road association business?

     Can voting by email on monetary issues be used if a dollar limit is set?

    Example:  Voting by email is approved for costs under $500.

    Thank you for your assistance.

    Last modified: 05 Apr 2023 9:42 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 04 Apr 2023 7:14 AM
    Reply # 13156057 on 13155669
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    It seems to me you may be using the term "email voting" to mean "vote by absentee ballot". Let's explore this possibility.

    Section 3101(3) states:

    E-mail may be used as an alternative to United States mail for sending notices and other materials under this section with the agreement of the receiving party as long as the communication includes the current address and telephone number of the sender for purposes of verification.

    Section 3101(5) states:

    By a majority vote of the owners present and voting in person or by written proxy or absentee ballot, the owners may determine what repairs and maintenance are necessary and the materials to be furnished ... 

    Subsection 5 does not prohibit email voting although email voting is not mentioned. Sending notices and materials via email is permitted with owner permission. Therefore, voting via absentee ballot sent back and forth via email is  possible.

    You will need to have owners' permission to receive email notices and materials to use this form of communication. There is a sample form on the Resources page if you need it. There is also a sample absentee ballot. The ballot may be sent with owner permission, filled out, scanned and sent back via email.

    I am not an attorney but, I believe the use of the word "may" in subsection 5 indicates that owners by majority vote can choose acceptable means of voting from the 3 choices available. If absentee voting is permitted, those voting absentee "must be" polled on all items voted but not on the agenda. Owners may be able to eliminate absentee voting by majority vote. I don't think this has been tested in court.

    I believe the owners could set monetary limits with a majority vote. The choices are yours to make.

    Last modified: 04 Apr 2023 5:10 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 04 Apr 2023 10:07 AM
    Reply # 13156200 on 13155669

    Thank you for this very democratic and important question. Email is NOT a secure method for "SECRET BALLOTS". For example, say the ballot has elections on it: 2 people are listed as a president, the voter picks one. Sending this info by email does not secure the voters' privacy of whom they picked. 

    This is also why, for example, when a proxy form is filled out by one member to vote on his/her behalf will ask the in person voter if he/she will vote for his/her selection,  but if not then that person will not give away his/her proxy.

    Remember, when people cast a vote, it's secret, no one is to know who voted for whom. For another example: say 5 voting members cast their ballot - they put it into a ballot box. The vote counters open the ballot box, and count the votes, there are 5 registered voters, and there are 5 ballots. The vote counters do not know who voted for whom. It's tallied up with the results of 3 votes for one person and 2 votes for the other. The winner is announced. Our association has 2 vote counters. It gets even more interesting when there is a tie! I have been in other situations where a tie occurred.

    Last modified: 04 Apr 2023 10:46 AM | Anonymous member
  • 04 Apr 2023 5:24 PM
    Reply # 13156931 on 13155669
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    To be clear, Ballot "secrecy" is not addressed in the Private Ways Statute. Parcels voting the majority in favor or opposed determine the outcome of voting unless otherwise specified in the by-laws. (2/3 majority for amendments, for example)

    May an "open vote" be considered "fair and equitable"?

    Last modified: 04 Apr 2023 5:57 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 04 Apr 2023 9:15 PM
    Reply # 13157166 on 13155669

    To be even more clear, conducting meetings similar to a town, requires  order. There are informal and formal methods of voting, such as voice votes, show of hands, physically standing and so on.. Please refer to roberts rules of order on incidental motions. I was trained as a parliamentarian and clearly know the rights of members, so I repeat. When the facilitator asks the assembly, "are you ready for the question (meaning you ready to vote), a member may announce a motion to be taken by ballot (this means a secret ballot). This allows the members to give a truer expression (privately through a secret ballot) of the will of the people. I have a referral for MARA of a statewide parliamentarian to educate you, boards and those who run annual meetings. A email vote is NOT SECURE. The vote counters are not to know who voted for who.

  • 05 Apr 2023 7:19 AM
    Reply # 13157435 on 13155669
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Thank you for sharing your expertise. I'm certainly not an expert.

    We have not had a request from a member for a secret ballot but would certainly honor such a request. I'm interested in your answer to the following scenario:

    If our moderator called the question and a member present and voting announced a motion to be taken by (secret) ballot, does that mean that members who have already submitted absentee ballots to the moderator via email could not have their votes counted as cast?  

    Last modified: 05 Apr 2023 11:37 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 05 Apr 2023 10:56 AM
    Reply # 13157735 on 13155669

    Opinions about “voting by email or email voting” are insightful thus far but I did not mean absentee voting. 

    The issue of protecting the privacy of the voter and ballot that is cast is valid.  I did not anticipate that rationale.  Also, I did not know that voting methods could be eliminated via bylaws, i.e., no absentee voting. 

    Now I would like to steer in a different direction.  First, additional background:

    Several lot owners in my road association would gladly eliminate meeting face to face.  They still value having a statutory association but falter in understanding that the annual road association meeting is similar to a town meeting having legal foundations.   Bottom line message: we are computer savvy and don’t want to give up personal time for a one-on-one meeting.

    My viewpoint (as a Lot Owner and association leader):

    Annual in-person road association meetings provide opportunity for verbally expressing responses and opinions and receiving reaction in real time with real people.  It also allows for debate, persuasion, and compromise.  A vote cast via email does not. 

    Voting on contracts, repairs and maintenance items needs to be approved at in-person road association meeting because it is fiscally and legally responsible, plus  it  allows for debate, persuasion, and compromise.  A vote cast via email does not.

    Conclusion:   Thus far, the MARA answers to my questions for the Lot Owners are…

    ·        Why is voting by email prohibited in MRS Title 23, section3101, subsection 5?      Answer:  Voter and ballot privacy must be protected.

    •  When is voting by email allowed for road association business?                        Answer:  When it is part of absentee balloting.   

    ·        Can voting by email on monetary issues be used if a dollar limit is set?             Answer:  Yes.

    Is this valid?

  • 05 Apr 2023 11:55 AM
    Reply # 13157821 on 13155669

    There is one aspect in Robert's rules that may be applicable for your community, it's called customs.  To quote, "In the absence of a rule establishing the method of voting, the rule established by custom if any should be followed..." Your neighborhood demonstrates this customary approach to vote by email. If I may add in consideration of this voting method to your association, that a vote counter be identified and assure the privacy of the members' votes. Thank you again for this respectable question. 

  • 09 Apr 2023 11:50 AM
    Reply # 13161747 on 13155669
    Anonymous member (Administrator)

    What follows is meant to add clarity to some of the points raised in the previous discussion. I'm not sure of validity. Others are welcome to offer comment.

    Honoring voter privacy is indicated when requested by a member or when deemed necessary by the moderator to ensure that the outcome of voting accurately represents the will of the majority. There may be other reasons.

    Ballot secrecy is not discussed in the Private Ways Statute. It’s use is left to the discretion of the membership of each road association.

    I believe ballot secrecy often may not be necessary. Our road association uses a show of hands supplemented by the tally of our absentee ballots by our Vice-president. We have received no requests for secret ballots but have asked candidates for office to leave the room during their election. 

    I'm not sure what you mean by "MARA answers". Member posts on the Discussion Forum may be answered by posts from other members including members of the MARA Board but such posts from the latter do not reflect the views of MARA or its Board unless so stated.  

    I agree with your viewpoint favoring in-person participation at meetings. It makes sense to choose a time and date that is most agreeable to the members to get as many people there as possible. Having done this, I believe any form of owner participation, including absentee voting, is better than none.

    Voting via email using absentee ballots may be used with or without "dollar limits" as long as the membership agrees and permission to receive email notices and materials has been authorized by each recipient.

    Last modified: 18 Apr 2023 10:39 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
  • 09 Apr 2023 7:26 PM
    Reply # 13161961 on 13155669

    Thank you for the responses. The information is very helpful.

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