Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Election Modernization Committee's Report

After a good bit of work, the members of the King Farm Election Modernization Committee have given their report over to the HOA's Board of Trustees and the President and Management.

I'm kind of geeky, it's true. But I am truly excited by the Board considering our recommendations and Management moving to update and modernize our elections. Yes, it is just an HOA - not a city, state or national election. But that is all the more reason why we should get it right. There are simply fewer moving parts. And maybe, just maybe, more people will take part!

Volunteers Laura Laudenberger and Thomas Darron were a huge help in pulling this together.

It is a little long (but you can view the document here), but here are the recommendations for the Board to consider:

Suggested Changes in the Elections Process

Option 1 - Ballots By Mail
This option brings King Farm into line with Rockville’s new mail-in ballot program slated to begin in 2019 for the City elections. King Farm could likely replicate the system that Rockville will be putting in place. The only question is whether Rockville’s vote-by-mail system is advanced enough in its implementation and execution to have a framework that would be replicable in time for April 2019 King Farm elections. Presumably, Rockville has looked into many of the issues raised in this report such as increasing privacy, combating fraud, and ongoing ballot collections. The HOA office would still be open. It would be up to discussion whether in-person ballots could be cast anytime or only in a limited timeframe given staffing constraints. Even without replicating Rockville’s system, King Farm ballots by mail should provide a less burdensome ballot.

Option 2 - In-Person voting
This option, while not ideal, would be to have a single day as the election day. Residents would be required to cast their ballot in-person or drop off their ballot at the HOA’s Community Center. No mail-in ballots would be accepted. Only true “absentee” ballots would be permitted if registered voters requested them using similar requirements to Maryland or Rockville election rules.

This option has the advantage of increasing privacy but the disadvantage of making the election participation more unlikely.

Option 3 - Hybrid Election
A combination of mail-in ballots and in-person voting, this option has the added attraction of being very similar to what King Farm currently undertakes in its elections. The only tweak would be to arrange the office to handle in-person voting during normal office hours for up to a week (or whatever is specified) prior to the election.

Option 4 - Hybrid Election with Online Components
Technology has advanced enough to make online voting more secure and feasible, especially in smaller voting pools such as King Farm. There are several firms that specialize in online voting systems and could help King Farm go electronic. However, there is distrust of technology and a lack of adoption of computers by a significant section of the population. However, combining an online voting system with either a mail and/or in-person system could certainly be feasible. A coordinated and long-term education effort would have to be undertaken in order to see this system be utilized to its full potential.

Other recommendations -

Recommendations for Board Action:

  • Decide between Options and recommend adoption of that option.
  • Decide whether King Farm wants same day registration.
  • Decide whether to allow online voting. If yes, decide whether it should adopted in the 2019 election or deferred until 2020.
  • Decide if Management should explore opportunities for Livestreaming or putting the Candidates’ Forum online for later viewing.

Recommendations for Management/President Action:
  • Election committees should be named at least six weeks prior to election day.
  • Text should be changed to reflect “mailed in” ballots rather than the erroneously named, “proxy ballots.”
  • King Farm should work with the City to determine what they will use to ensure privacy of ballot but maintain a paper trail in case of questions.
  • Redesign King Farm ballot to remove identifying information.
  • Communicate to King Farm residents through Chronicle and email blasts that registration for upcoming elections is ongoing. Remind prior to election.
  • Each registered voter should be addressed by name and receive their own ballot.
  • The rules of the election should be clear and concise.
  • Communication on the election should begin starting at least six months out from the election.
  • Communicating the rules and procedures should be clearly communicated and publicized to candidates and voters.
  • Any changes should be clearly communicated to the candidates and the voters.

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