Electronic Meeting Attendance and Voting: What is Permitted?
The amended Condominium Act, 1998 allows condominium corporations to pass a by-law authorizing owners to attend meetings electronically and/or vote electronically. But what exactly does this permit? For instance, can the by-law allow owners to vote at any time (not necessarily during the holding of the meeting)? And can the voting be done without using a proxy?
The bottom line is that we’re unsure…and we might not be sure until a Court provides direction on the issue.
First and foremost, I want to say that I applaud the initiatives of lawyers and others who have proposed methods of electronic voting that are designed to maximize and simplify the opportunities for owners to make use of electronic voting. I whole-heartedly agree that electronic voting is the “way of the future.”
But here’s what I’m worried about…Section 50(2) of the Condominium Act requires the following:
To count towards the quorum, an owner must be entitled to vote at a meeting and shall be present at the meeting or represented by proxy.
So, I think the question is: Is it possible for someone to be “present at a meeting” by voting electronically – i.e. without using a proxy and without otherwise participating during the actual meeting?
Again, I’m not sure. I certainly see the practical expediency – the increased opportunity to conduct business – if this is permitted. But there’s a concern: Many decisions require participation during the meeting because (for any proposed resolution, by-law, or rule) there may be motions to amend the document. When it comes to such motions, would the “absent voter” simply be treated as abstaining? And how would their vote apply if the main proposal is amended? Does the electronic voting process allow the absent voter to address these issues (as the prescribed proxy form does)?
These questions may, in part, explain why the prescribed proxy form is so detailed and complex. The legislators may have recognized that these are issues to be considered or contemplated by each voter…i.e. issues that may come up at any meeting. But if we don’t have a voter – an owner or the owner’s proxy – actually in attendance at the meeting, these issues may, in some cases, be much more difficult to resolve.
The bottom line is as follows: I like electronic voting. It will undoubtedly be the way of the future. But condominium meetings (and related decisions) are often dynamic, unpredictable events. As a result, it may be that a voter needs to participate (electronically or otherwise) during the meeting. If that is the case, then electronic attendance and electronic voting are simply methods by which an owner can participate and/or vote during the meeting.
Stay tuned to Condo Law News to keep up to date on the latest developments respecting electronic voting for condominium meetings!