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What are Proxy Votes?

Real Estate Legality

Each condominium, cooperative, and HOA has a board that acts as their own mini government. The board provides an acting democracy for its residents through the power of voting. This process of governance allows for representation of its members, as they try to vote towards the best interests of their community. There are instances in which individual owners aren’t able to actively participate, which leads to the use of proxy votes. A proxy is, “a written statement by an individual owner or shareholder that authorizes a surrogate to vote on his or her behalf in an association election or referendum.”[1] The assignment of a proxy vote is done through legal documents, and is legally enforceable.

It is important to look into the bylaws of the building to determine if the association allows for proxy votes. If the bylaws do not contain language in regard to proxy votes, or outright forbid them, that should be a warning sign. Associations that do not allow proxies are not being fully represented by their unit owners. This could eventually become problematic when a select few end up making the decisions that affect the whole building.

When a unit owner decides that they would like to vote via proxy, there are two ways they can direct their vote. The first form is a general vote, which allows the proxy holder to vote however they please. The second form is the directed vote, which tells the proxy holder which candidates or which issues they would like to vote towards. When there are heated elections, the board has to be careful against ballot stuffing. To counter against this potential fraud, boards may follow certain precautions. Henry Goodman, the principal and co-founder of Goodman, Shapiro & Lombardi, LLC, a law firm with offices in Massachusetts and Rhode Island elaborates on the precautions.

“The board may send out proxies with a designated watermark in order to prevent ballot stuffing…the board should maintain a list of the person in each unit who is designated to vote. The signatures can then be matched to that list to ensure that the correct person is voting. The board can even direct that proxies will be counted only if they are mailed to a particular person and address by a cutoff date, thus depriving persons from arriving at the meeting with a handful of proxies at the last minute.”[2]

These steps are important to ensure that the association is acting upon the majority opinion of its residents. Precautionary steps must be taken to take out any possibility of fraud or deception. Each vote is an important aspect that leads to the governance of the building, and voter participation is what leads to unity and transparency within the building.

[1] Odenthal, M. (2018, October). Participation by Proxy. Retrieved from The Cooperator: Accessed on October 15, 2018

[2] Ib.

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