OF HIRING INDEPENDENT MONITORS
Sometime in the past or maybe in the near future, you as a shareholder, management team or board member might run into a situation where you need additional help.
If it concerns your organizational elections have no fear, there are groups out there that can help. Most of these groups are experienced in the coordination, management and administration of elections for various types of private organizations.
They are called Election Administrators, Election Managers, Election Supervisors or Vote Tabulators. Whichever name you want to use for them they can help you sort out your election dilemma. In addition, the benefits of hiring an outside organization to supervise your elections are multiple. Before you choose one though, make sure they are an independent, nonpartisan, group.
All though these types of organizations are not abundant in the New York area, they do exist and they can be of immense help in sorting out certain election related problems and just deflecting peoples' worries about a fair election system.
Nowadays when the whole democratic electoral system is under attack (see Florida), some people have become disillusioned and want to make sure their vote is not being hijacked, even if it's an election for their co-op or condominium board and not the presidency. People do not like to be taken advantage of.
A good independent election organization will take the hassle and worry out of running your elections. They should be above reproach so there is no hint of impropriety. A good outside organization should do more than tabulate votes. They have to provide solutions to problems as well as run a secure, transparent election. They have to be able to secure the proxy/ballot process, which allows for a secure election.
People and policies make up all companies. If the organization you choose does not have a professional staff or has questionable policies then you have an inferior organization. If they are inflexible and do not cater to your needs than that can be a problem also. It should not matter how large the organization is or their length of time in business; that should not determine if you should use them or not. It does not mean they are right for you. A company's size or length of time in business should not determine whether they know what they are doing. Just like anything else, you should shop around, take bids, and talk to different companies and compare. One of the jobs of management is to find the best services for their shareholders/cooperators and the only way of doing that is to talk to the different companies available to find out what they have to offer. As one company says, “an educated consumer is our best customer”* or “an informed board is an effective board”**.
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The majority of the problems facing co-ops and condominiums concerning their organizations elections stem from either having too much work and not enough time, lack of knowledge concerning the election process, dissatisfaction with the current process or simply the need to run a very transparent election without the hint of impropriety.
A good election administration service will know how to bridge all of these gaps as well as give their client the type of election that they need (customized service) while staying within the boundaries of federal law and their clients by-laws.
In other words, a good election administration organization will set the tone of the process by implementing policies for the upcoming election that everyone can agree with and at the same time provide solutions to problems that might arise.
Above all else, a good election organization will make sure the voting and tabulating process is secure. There are various ways of reaching this goal. The election organization should design, print, mail and receive all proxy/ballot information so that the tabulation process is secure, above board and very transparent. If paper ballots are used, they should implement a system so each shareholders vote is anonymous. They should provide (if needed/requested) election equipment that is tamper resistant (a secure voice mail system, secure internet voting, secure electronic voting equipment, secure lever voting machines).
They should provide information and suggestions without giving cookie cutter answers to problems/questions that might be unique to your specific co-op or condominium. Telling you how you are supposed to run your elections does not always do the trick. Not all co-ops and condominiums are the same. Sometimes a co-op or condominium might need more help with a particular situation or problem that is unique to that co-op or condominium. Each cooperative or condominium should be treated according to their special needs (customized service) and the solutions given should be within the boundaries of their by-laws and federal laws.
Personally, I feel that every organization that has to democratically elect any Officer to any post within their organization should hire an outside, independent company to handle the process in order to head off electoral complaints before they start. Here are some common issues concerning elections that should result in the hiring of an independent election service.
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1. The need for nonpartisan help:
Shareholders might feel that elections conducted by management or the association attorney is a conflict of interest
2. Contentious elections:
Candidates might be conducting smear campaigns or illegal campaigning processes.
3. Time consumption:
The job has taken key personnel away from their normal duties.
4. Lack of knowledge of the electoral process and how it can benefit you and your organization:
Not understanding the ins and outs of running an election and not fully understanding the benefits an outside organization provides.
5. A transparent election process:
The need to deflect any questions of wrongdoing or impropriety on the part of management or the board concerning the election process.
6. Help with meeting your quorum on time:
Ideas that might stir up interest in your cooperators/shareholders concerning their elections.
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When hiring an independent election operation they should be able to provide solutions to these problems. Shop around and conduct interviews. You can't get all the information you need from a proposal. Have specific questions ready that concern your organization and have the election representatives answer them.
When hiring an independent election service make sure they adhere to these principles.
Impartiality is the key to the success of any election. No individual involved should have a vested interest (or stake) in the outcome of the election. In addition, the designated election chairperson should be a disinterested party.
An election supervisor, monitor, manager and administrator should:
First, protect the rights of all eligible voters thus ensuring voter confidentiality.
Second, be responsible for conducting a fair and impartial election that avoids the appearance of favoritism toward any candidate or issue.
Third, make sure all elections are conducted according to federal law and each organization's bylaws.
All interested parties must be present or offered the opportunity to be present when important issues are discussed to encourage dialogue throughout the election.
Before each election, they should review the appropriate federal laws and the bylaws of its clients.
Make sure there is an election committee (if not have one set up) made up of non-partisan shareholders / cooperators. This is done so the election administrators do not have to go through management or the board of directors in order to dispense or receive information thus eliminating any hint of impropriety.
Provide solutions to problems, Provide excellent customer service.
Overall, hiring an independent election supervisory staff shows your shareholders/cooperators that you care about their voting process and in turn, it shows you care about them. It cuts down on any perceived misdoings. It allows your shareholders/cooperators to have a voice in the system, which in turn gives them a better feeling about their cooperative apartment or condominium.
Everything done in this life involves interacting with people so, it is all a matter of customer service. Whether you are successful could well depend on your customer service skills. You might not be able to please everyone but there is a way of getting his or her trust and respect. Good customer service skills equal customer satisfaction and in turn your satisfaction.
A fair and impartial election enables voters to choose new representatives and leaders, and tests the strengths of the existing democratic institutions and procedures. Most organizations, however, often lack the capacity to effectively support the management of elections or the electoral and political process itself. For democracy to flourish, elections must reflect the will of the people.