Governor Signs into Law Changes to Civil Code Section 1363.03 Dealing with Election Procedure

Please do not shoot the messenger as we are only reporting the news. On September 18, 2006, the Governor signed S.B. 1560 (the “Amendment”), which modifies recently enacted Civil Code Section 1363.03. This “cleanup bill” clarifies some troublesome issues, which will hopefully allow associations to get through the election process more efficiently.

• §1363.03(e)(1)

One of the provisions in 1363.03 required homeowners, when voting by secret ballot, to write his or her name in their own hand on the exterior envelope sent to the inspector(s) of election and state their unit, lot or tract number. The Amendment allows an owner to sign the exterior envelope and indicate the owner’s name or address or separate interest identifier that entitles that owner to vote. Therefore, the homeowner will no longer have to print their name, unit, lot and tract number in their own hand but may instead utilize a label. However, the member is still required to sign his or her name.

• §1363.03(f)

The changes to Civil Code Section 1363.03 now confirm what we already knew to be the case, that once the inspector receives the ballot, it is not revocable. This change can be found at 1363.03(f). An additional change to 1363.03(f) allows the inspector or the inspector’s third party designee to verify members’ information and signature on the outer envelope of the secret ballot prior to the meeting at which the ballots are tabulated. We had been very concerned that only the inspector(s) of election could perform this job and only perform it at the meeting. Now, the inspector(s) can designate third parties to help perform some of the work and allows for the signature on the outer envelope to be verified (this will help with reaching quorum) prior to the meeting.

• §1363.03(m)

1363.03(m) has been added to confirm that the secret ballot procedure is not required for votes cast by delegates or other elected representatives, but only for votes cast directly by members of the association.

• §1363.03(d)(1)(A)

Another important change defines a proxy (this is a new definition for the code) as “a written authorization signed by a member or the authorized representative of the member that gives another member or members the power to vote on behalf of that member.” (Emphasis added.) In the past, a proxy could be given to any third party whether they were the member, the member’s attorney or a family member unrelated to the association. Now, a proxy can only be given to a member.

• §1363.03(d)(1)(B)

The word “signed” is now defined as “the placing of the member’s name on the proxy, whether by manual signature, typewriting, telegraphic transmission or otherwise by the member or authorized representative of the member.” This is important because it clarifies whether faxed signatures count; they do.

• §1363.03(d)(2)

The cleanup legislation clarifies that proxies may not be construed or used in lieu of a ballot. The modifications to the Civil Code provide that if proxies are permitted or required by an association’s bylaws, and if the proxy meets the statutory requirements, they shall be used. However, associations are not required to prepare or distribute proxies pursuant to Section 1363.03. A member may revoke his or her proxy prior to the receipt of the secret ballot by the inspector(s) of election pursuant to Section 1363.03(d)(3).

• §1363.03(b)

An important concern has been the quorum requirement. The Amendment provides that if quorum is required for elections in the governing documents or other provisions of law, each secret ballot received by the inspector(s) shall be treated as a member present at a meeting for purposes of establishing a quorum (1363.03(b)). We believe that since the ballot is contained within the first and second envelope referenced above, when the envelope is received, it can be used for establishing quorum. Since quorum is determined by ballots, if an envelope is received without a ballot enclosed, then the empty envelope would not count toward quorum.

Additionally, this same subparagraph adds to the already designated four issues for which secret ballots must be utilized to include the removal (recall) of directors.

Unfortunately, these changes did not go as far as we would have liked. However, the changes are significant and clarify many unanswered questions that followed the enactment of Civil Code Section 1363.03.

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