A Toronto-based condo lawyer is changing the voting game for condo corporations in Ontario.
Denise Lash and her new company, CondoVoter, are making it possible for owners and investors to vote electronically.
“It sort of came to me out of the frustration that people have in the industry about the voting process,” she says.
Lash began CondoVoter after large-scale amendments took effect in the Ontario Condominium Act in November 2017. Some of the amendments were put in place to solve proxy-voting fraud, such as the creation of a standard proxy form. However, Lash says that the form is long and complicated, and many condo corporations are facing voter apathy.
“What’s been happening since November is owners aren’t bothering and then we’re not able to get these meetings and we’re not quorum,” she says.
Looking for a solution, Lash stumbled upon s. 52(b)(iii) of the Condo Act, which states that votes can be “indicated by telephonic or electronic means, if the bylaws so permit.” She was intrigued. What if the solution to the proxy problem was not to have proxies at all?
Lash began to research if any other places around the world had regulated electronic voting in community associations. She found that voting takes place through secure websites in the United States and Australia. Lash eventually partnered with Vote HOA Now, an electronic voting company that serves condo corporations throughout the U.S., and created CondoVoter.
Currently, in keeping with the Condo Act, if a condo corporation wants to start electronic voting, they have to pass a bylaw to allow it. Lash says that this is nothing to be intimidated by, as it isn’t a regular bylaw. It doesn’t require a majority of all owners to pass it, just the majority of a 25-per-cent quorum, and the bylaw can be voted in by proxy if the owners and investors so choose.
Once the bylaw is passed, the steps are simple. The owners give consent for their email to be given to CondoVoter, and then voting packages can be sent out to owners with a link to the voting site and submit their ballot. All ballots are anonymous, and only the numbered results are sent to the corporation’s manager. CondoVoter also stores the voting data as per the ballot storage regulations in the Condo Act.
“People just love voting on their phones, from the computer,” says Lash. “So all these apathetic owners or investors that are living out of the country, they will vote this way, because it's not a big deal.”
After the voting bylaw has passed, condo owners are still permitted to vote by proxy, says Lash, but she thinks electronic voting is a necessary innovation for condo law.
“The whole point is we want to make things easier for condo owners,” she says. “It’s safe and secure, it meets all the other requirements and, in fact, it’s in the legislation, so why are we not offering it?”