The Future of Proxies
The use of proxies for voting is a staple in our business but as Bob Dylan wrote, “The Times, They Are A-Changin’.”
We should not be surprised to discover that the use of proxies has evolved over time and continues to do so. First, with paper there was one obvious “original” document. When the principal (i.e., the person signing the proxy) changed his or her mind and requested the proxy be returned, the person who had possession of the document simply returned the original to the principal and the “chain of custody” of the document was clear.
Then, we automated the process and although it happened faster, nothing really changed except that we send the proxy electronically, we sign it electronically and we ship it back electronically. We now save even more money and the process is even faster than before. What could be the problem?
Normally, this whole process happens by email, one of the most insecure methods of moving important documents from one place to another
It is not unusual for family members to share use of an email account. Can we authenticate that the transimission was from the owner - that the "right" person received the email and that the returned proxy was from the person authorized to sign? The bottom line here is that the ability to authenticate the user becomes suspect.
Who has the original? Every person involved in the process has a copy and the copies all look the same
Currently, the apparent nationwide trend is most definitely away from using a proxy at all. Many states including Arizona, California, Virginia and Illinois have already changed their laws in such a way as to discourage the use of proxies.
In the United States, there is a tacit understanding that the proxy is invalid if the Principal is in attendance at a meeting where they have previously provided a proxy. However, each State may have a different view. Therefore, we recommend each Community’s official documents should explicitly state that the proxy is invalid if the owner is present.
In summary; a view of the residential community landscape shows that proxies will be used less and less and, eventually, they may have no use at all. Our legislatures are getting more and more negative about using proxies. Instead, they are trying to align with the more traditional methods that municipal and federal governments use for voting – the absentee ballot.
Condos, HOAs, CO-OPs, apartment buildings, etc. represent a huge number of consumers. What this group wants is vital to the business world. Also, while a better process for handling ballots is a “nice-to-have” right now – it might be a critical need in the very near future.
Online software applications continually change and get better and better. As the huge customer base you are, provide some direction and, hopefully, the online software you use today will be the first to respond!
Here’s the call to action. Let your Property Manager or software developer know there are changes ahead and you do not want to be left vulnerable. Many associations use an online software to process electronic proxies. Some of these are provided by the Property Manager and some are purchased separately.
Let them know you need end-to-end electronic ballots; electronic ballots made available to owners (not by email, which is difficult to authenticate), electronics ballots executed and returned (not using email) to the body responsible for the election, and a way to convert paper ballots to electronic form
Tell them you want your software to be able to validate and weed out duplicate ballots, as well as compute quorum and ballot results for you
Be clear you want to feel confident that you have one authoritative source and repository of record regardless of whether the ballots were submitted by paper or electronically.