I have been present at elections where the members have no idea “who” is running for the board. In the condominium setting the members have the benefit of knowing in advance the names of all candidates. That does not mean that the member knows the candidate, either because the candidate has not been active or is new to the community, the member has not been active or is new to the community, or some combination thereof. An easy way to have members get to know candidates is for them to submit a candidate information sheet. Per the Condominium Act, all candidates can submit an 8 ½ x 11 sheet of paper providing any information the candidate deems important or of note. The association is not liable for the contents of the sheet and must provide copies of it along with the transmission of the ballot at no cost to the candidate so long as it is submitted by the statutory deadline (35 days before the election). To help members decide on the best candidate, some condominiums have hosted a “Meet the Candidates” night where the candidates give their elevator speech and answer questions. A moderator is usually on hand to help the event run smoothly. Though this is not statutorily required, it has helped when there is great tension between the board, candidates, and membership.
In a homeowners association setting, whether the membership knows the names of any candidates prior to the date of the election depends on the governing documents. If nominations are accepted from the floor, it is impossible to prepare a ballot before the election. This requires members to attend the election to see all candidates who nominate themselves at the time and then decide “who” they should vote for. Note that this system does not allow for information sheets and floor nominations do not guarantee an elevator speech by the nominee. In the homeowners association setting, it really is an election dependent on the governing documents. If the current system is not working, there is another option. HOAs can adopt an election process similar to that of condominiums by amending their governing documents. Such an amendment would permit members to “know” candidate names before the election and if candidate information sheets are provided a bit of the candidate’s platform.