The COVID-19 pandemic has forced organizations across various industries worldwide to adjust operations and leverage technology in new, innovative ways to conduct business as usual - with condo corporations being no exception.
While these adjustments have affected nearly every aspect of a condo corporation's operations, one area that might have seen the most drastic change over the past 18 months has been governance meetings. Whether it be AGMs, SGMs, or turnover meetings, condo corporations across Ontario have migrated these necessary meetings from in-person events to virtual or hybrid formats while reaping the many benefits of doing so in the process. Some of the major benefits to virtual meetings and electronic voting are shorter meeting durations, simplified voting periods and quicker tabulations. And while shorter meetings are great, ensuring voting accuracy is most important. But, how can this be ensured in hybrid and exclusively virtual formats?
It All Starts With Tracking Attendance
Accurately tracking meeting attendance is not only integral to ensuring that quorum is achieved at your meeting. The ability to accurately track and identify who is in attendance at your meeting is also a crucial step in ensuring the accuracy of voting results. Standalone meeting software is simplistic and generally fails to meet the requirements for an Owner Meeting in this regard. For example, Zoom can tell you who it thinks is there but there’s so much more to attendance.
Consider this, without knowing who's in attendance at your meeting, some crucial questions become impossible to answer. Who is eligible to vote on this matter? Who is present online? How many units are uniquely represented? Have they submitted a proxy vote prior to the meeting? These questions simply can not be answered by standalone meeting software like Zoom. These attendance-based challenges are even more sophisticated in the context of a hybrid format with in-person attendees. Registration needs to cross-reference voters online, voters in-person, proxies that have been submitted, owner-occupied voters, ineligible voters (e.g. arrears), guests and otherwise. Not understanding exactly who is present significantly raises the risk of duplicate or ineligible votes being included in the final ballot tabulations, jeopardizing the integrity results.
However, while a majority of corporations plan to embrace virtual and hybrid meetings for the foreseeable future, concerns around the accuracy of voting results during these meetings have understandably become a pressing concern for many. The simple answer ensuring voting accuracy is to have all owners vote on the same platform.
Electronic Voting and Virtual Meetings Are Not The Same
Electronic Voting and Virtual Meetings are related but must be understood as two pieces that are tied together. Electronic voting uses electronic means to cast and count votes and does not necessarily include a Virtual Meeting. There are a few flavours of electronic voting; advance balloting, electronic proxies and real-time voting. So while all Virtual Meetings necessarily include Electronic Voting, it is conceivable that electronic voting could be used at an exclusively in-person meeting (i.e. no virtual component).
By comparison, Virtual Meetings should be thought of as meetings where all activities, including audio/visual and voting, are conducted through telephonic or electronic means. The delineation I’m arguing for is that the Virtual Meeting component should include full participation rights for owners and not simply a live stream for them to observe. This includes virtual-only meetings, a meeting is held exclusively through telephonic or electronic means, and hybrid meetings, a meeting where attendees can join and participate in the meeting either electronically or in-person.
Using disparate standalone meeting software (i.e. Zoom) and an electronic voting platform is a helpful and viable path for corporations wishing to host Virtual Meetings. However, the result of the voting platform not being integrated with the meeting software has the potential to create delays caused by necessarily manual processes in registration and attendance. If owners are simply registering to a zoom meeting, there is no way for a chairperson to immediately determine how many of those virtually present have submitted proxies or to determine how many unique units are present. Therefore, your quorum count is immediately at risk and is subject to manual processes (e.g. renaming and reviewing each attendee). For smaller corporations, this may very well be an acceptable time delay. For larger corporations, manually reviewing each attendee is arduous and a poor experience for all.
Lastly, and statistically speaking, a small percentage of Owner Meetings will be contested. Was quorum achieved? Did the owner in question establish a connection to the meeting? Can you deconstruct the voting results and provide data that can be audited. Can you defend your election to the CAO? Part of ensuring accurate voting results is using platforms that generate and store auditable reporting, including both voting tallies and meeting registration data. The simple solution for all of this is to use a unified Virtual Meeting and Voting platform.
Selecting the Right Platform
As we know, governance meetings have unique voting requirements. From the need to account for proxies submitted ahead of the meeting to voter eligibility that varies from owner to owner, these factors must be accounted for and add complexity to the ballot tabulation process to ensure the accuracy and integrity of results.
This is why selecting a secure electronic voting platform that can accommodate the dynamic nature, and unique voting requirements of your meeting is integral to the success of your meeting. Without a capable solution, ensuring the accuracy of voting results is a daunting, time-consuming task that is prone to errors and, if done incorrectly, can have negative impacts that can be felt across the corporation's operations.
All to say, despite concerns around voting accuracy, virtual and hybrid meetings have proven benefits for condo corporations of all sizes and triumph when compared to in-person meetings. And with the adequate preparation and proper tools, conducting a successful virtual or hybrid governance meeting with accurate voting results should be a breeze for any condo corporation.
Ready to utilize electronic voting at your next meeting?
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If you'd like to use electronic voting at your upcoming meeting, get in touch with our team!