Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Ballots Being Issued to Sections 2, 3 and 5; Problems with Ballot and Process

Residents of Sections 2 and 3 received board of trustee ballots last week. No sooner were the ballots delivered but we started receiving calls citing problems with how they were written. Section 5 residents wondered why they weren’t included at all (Sections 3 and 5 are represented by one trustee).

So on Saturday, March 8, the Revitalization and Deed Restriction Committees jointly emailed the board urging them to reissue a corrected ballot to Sections 2, 3 AND Section 5, prestamped with unique identifiers, with proper instructions. We suggested that the ballot mailed last week be discarded.

We have learned today that the Board will issue new ballots this week. We’ve not seen copy yet, but hope the following have been rectified:

1) The ballot listed all candidates for Sections 2 and 3/5 on the same page, implying the resident should vote for candidates in each section. Legally residents cannot vote for a trustee in another section, but there were no instructions to that effect.

2) The ballots had no unique identifier to determine whether a resident of one section is voting for the trustee(s) of the other section. It only asked for a signature, but no printed name or address – thus allowing anyone to submit a ballot with a scribbled signature. The board made no provision to match signatures/ballots with households or sections to verify that the ballots are legitimate and there are no duplicates.

Prestamped unique identifiers were used for the pool survey; there's no reason why this same process should not have been used for trustee elections.

3) Section 5 did not receive any ballots, nor was it listed as a participating section in the election on either the ballot itself, or in the letter sent in February informing residents of the upcoming elections and Annual Meeting.

The Revitalization Committee volunteered to help by attaching a notice to the WoodNote to the effect that residents should only vote for candidates in their Section. However, as calls continued, we realized this stopgap solution was not going to eliminate all the problems outlined above.

So, we’re waiting to see if these new ballots have been done correctly.

In addition to fixing the ballot, we're also urging the board to change the way the votes are counted. Currently we don’t have objective third-party oversight; ballots are processed and results announced by board members, including those standing for election.

We did a little research on what other community associations do, how they publish their voting process, what they put on their ballots. Our process is not “best practice” for community associations, which call for ballot counting to be conducted in an open and transparent manner by objective third parties with oversight by the candidate or his/her proxy. Ballots also should be matched against households or homeowners.

We’re not thrilled with having to pursue this with the board, but we became alarmed when we realized that there are so many problems with the way these elections are being conducted that we had to do something, as the only standing committees that Kings Forest has.

Nor are we happy to bring it to the attention of residents. But you need to know. Together we need to change the way we conduct our elections. We need to make sure not only that these new ballots are structured correctly, but also that the vote counting at the Annual Meeting is conducted in an open and transparent manner.

We urge you to let the board know that you care about these elections and want the voting process to be conducted in a fair and legal manner. Contact information is available at www.kingsforest.org.