How to limit election fraud

Election fraud is so common in some condos that, under the present Condominium Act, it would be almost impossible to stamp it out but it can and needs to be controlled.

Education
The owners need to understand the election and voting process in condo corporations and know how election fraud can take place.

That will eliminate a good share of election fraud. However, I don't know any way inexpensive way of educating the owners about election fraud and I do not expect the industry lobby groups to help with this.

Property management company
“If you don't trust your property manager then you have the wrong property manager. Ensuring the proxies are not tampered with is very difficult. This isn't an exacting formula for voting so again it comes down to trust and a bit of oversight on the part of the board.
—condo director

A simple, even naive, answer. Proxy fraud is often not limited to rogue managers but is part of the normal business procedures at a few management companies. Oversight by the boards is not the answer because the incumbents may be the beneficiaries of most—but definitely not all—election fraud.

What if the federal Conservative government hired a company to run Elections Canada and this company depended on the Conservatives to be re-elected for them to keep the contract and their jobs. Would you expect that private company to run a fair and impartial election process? Of course not. So why is it different when a condo board hires a property management company and its contract may depend on the incumbents getting re-elected?

Some ideas for condos
There are some measures that management, the Chairs and the owners at some condo corporations have used to limit proxy fraud. They include:
1.
The owners have volunteer scrutineers monitor the registration process prior to the start of the meeting along with counting the ballots.
1.
Examine each proxy to insure they appear to be signed by the actual owner and not by a renter or an occupant who is not on the unit title.
2.
Examine each proxy for obvious signs of tampering with the candidate's names or dates.
3.
Record the names of the proxies on the register who are representing the absent unit owners.
4.
Ensuring that no proxy forms will be accepted from any units that are more than 30 days in arrears nor will their owners receive a ballot.
5.
Insure that the number of proxies and ballots submitted match the number of units that are present at the meeting in person or by proxy.
6.
If the chair is openly biased, call a motion to replace the chair.
7.
If you suspect that election irregularities are likely, hire a lawyer, who is experienced in condominium law, attend the meeting. Insure that he or she has a valid proxy.
8.
If you think that there are proxy irregularities, demand to inspect the ballots and the proxies during the meeting, not afterwards.
9.
If you suspect election fraud, say so at the meeting and demand that your suspicions be recorded in the minutes. If you do not complain about the irregularities then, it harms your credibility later if you challenge the results in court.

A history of fraud
For condos with a history of serious election fraud, more extensive measures are required. In these cases, an independent lawyer should be hired to chair the meeting. This lawyer must be told of previous fraudulent election practices so he or she will be forewarned.

This chair may set an earlier cutoff date or time for the acceptance of all proxies and may insist that all proxies be sent to his or her office, by the owners, in a pre-addressed envelope that would be included in the Meeting Information Package.

The property management company and all of its staff must not be allowed to collect, hold proxies or man the registration desk unless they are closely supervised.

All owners appearing in person that are not recognized by any of the scrutineers, may need to show photo ID before being given a ballot.

Change the Condominium Act
It needs to be illegal for any and all contractors working for the condo corporation, including the manager and all management company staff, to be involved in condominium elections.

Their jobs may depend on the election of certain candidates so their controlling of the voting process is a serious conflict of interest and is the source of much of the abuse in condo elections.

Since this issue is not addressed in the Condominium Act, the condo corporation by-laws should be changed to allow for the appointment of independent election monitors to vet all proxy forms, collect all the proxies prior to opening the registration desk and manage all condo elections and all requisitions for Special Owner Meetings.

Preventing election misconduct and manipulation must become a priority.


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