Occasionally, HOA elections and votes will require secret ballots. But the truth is that most people don’t know what that means, when they’re required, or what their purpose is. These kinds of rules can seem difficult to understand, especially when you start throwing in words like “quorum” and “bylaws” and everything is written in legal jargon. Below is a basic breakdown of why elections may need secret ballots and what that means.

First off, secret ballots are used for certain HOA-related elections. Like the term “secret” implies, all of the residents in the HOA submit their votes without any identifying markers like their name, address, lot or unit number, or street name. The advantage to secret ballots is that the anonymity can help residents feel more comfortable casting their votes.

Here are a few situations when HOA boards might require a secret ballot vote (keep in mind that each state’s bylaws are different, so your HOA requirements might be different):

  • Secret ballots will be used when positions on the board of directors are challenged. Basically, secret ballots need to be used when there are more residents running for the board than available seats. This method of voting is favorable in this situation because no one can they claim that residents felt some sort of obligation to vote for a neighbor.
  • Secret ballots will be used when the board of directors deems it necessary to hold a secret vote. Some boards like that secrecy gives residents the freedom to vote without any perceived pressure on what their neighbors or friends want them to do.
  • Finally, secret ballots can be implemented on any issue when 20% of the residents, either present in person or by proxy at an HOA meeting, request one.

All residents are required to receive their ballots, two pre-addressed envelopes, and instructions on how to return the ballot no less than 30 days before the voting deadline. Once the voter fills out the ballot with their vote, they will leave it unsigned and insert it into the first sealed envelope. The first envelope is then inserted into the second envelope. This second envelope needs to indicate the voter’s name, signature, and address in the upper left-hand corner (this information is left confidential when the vote is counted). This envelope will be sent to a neutral third party or a committee of volunteers. If your community decides to use a committee of volunteers, any residents running for a position, current board members, or managers should not be on or assist the committee.

The results of the secret vote will be announced in an HOA meeting, and the results must be reported without mentioning the names, addresses, or any other identifying factors of the residents who voted.

While this process can seem arduous and unnecessarily long, secret ballots definitely have their advantages. First off, residents can feel completely comfortable voting the way they want to and avoid any peer pressure they may feel. It can also provide a secure voting process so that no one can claim that the vote/election was unfair or biased. In the end, the goal of any secret ballot is to create a safe and successful HOA vote for residents of your community.