Secret ballots in body corporate decision making

Secret Ballots

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When it comes to making important decisions within a group of property owners, it is crucial to ensure that everyone’s opinion is heard and valued. This is where a secret ballot comes into play.

A body corporate secret ballot is a common practice that allows individuals to freely express their opinions without any fear of the consequences. It is especially important when dealing with significant or controversial decisions.

This article covers when and how to use a secret ballot in a body corporate.

When to use secret ballots in body corporate

In Queensland, the Body Corporate and Community Management (Standard Module) Regulation 2020 and the Body Corporate and Community Management (Accommodation Module) Regulation 2020  offer clear instructions regarding the appropriate use of secret ballots within a body corporate setting. These regulations not only provide guidance on when secret ballots should be utilised but also outline specific scenarios where their use is mandatory.

No matter the purpose behind conducting a secret ballot, the legislation offers comprehensive guidelines on how the process should be carried out to maintain its fairness and reliability.

The process of conducting a secret ballot

When casting a hard copy vote for a secret ballot motion, the following process and guidelines must be followed:

  1. Place a mark on the voting paper to indicate your vote.
  2. Place the voting paper in the secret voting paper envelope provided by the secretary and seal it.
  3. Place the sealed secret voting paper envelope in the separate envelope provided and seal it.
  4. Complete the separate particulars envelope or particulars tab by signing and dating, and providing the following information:
      • The lot number.
      • The lot owner.
      • The name of the person voting.
      • The basis for the person’s right to vote.

5. Give the completed secret voting paper envelope to the returning officer or forward the envelope to the returning officer, so that it is received before the votes are counted at the general meeting

The role of the returning officer in a body corporate secret ballot

The appointment of a returning officer by the body corporate is mandatory for each general meeting where a motion is to be decided by secret ballot. The following functions are to be performed by the returning officer, as determined by the body corporate:

  1. Deciding questions regarding eligibility to vote and voting entitlements.
  2. Receiving hard copy and electronic votes for secret ballots.
  3. Counting votes or inspecting the counting of votes.
  4. Determining the validity of a vote.

Electronic voting in a body corporate secret ballot

Electronic voting is gaining popularity and being more frequently employed for secret ballots within body corporates. This is applicable when the body corporate has adopted a resolution permitting voters to submit electronic votes for motions that are decided through secret balloting.

For the body corporate to pass such a resolution, the electronic voting system must fulfill the following criteria:

  1. The system should not reveal the voter’s identity.
  2. The system must reject a vote cast by someone who is not authorised to vote on the motion or has already cast a vote on the motion.
  3. The system must only allow the returning officer to receive electronic votes.
  4. The system may enable a voter who is personally present at the general meeting to cast an electronic vote at the meeting.

Additionally, when casting an electronic vote, individuals must comply with any requirements specified in the Electronic Transactions (Queensland) Act 2001 regarding the signing or electronic sending of documents.

In summary

While the process of conducting a secret ballot may seem complicated, it is crucial to ensure that everyone involved has confidence in the outcome of the vote, regardless of the decision made. By following the prescribed process, the integrity of the vote is maintained, and the outcome can be accepted as a fair representation of the body corporate’s collective decision.

If you are an owner within a body corporate, it is essential to understand the use of secret ballots and how they are conducted. By doing so, you can ensure your voice is heard and counted, and the collective decisions made by the body corporate are fair and equitable. If you have any concerns or questions with regards to the secret ballot process, you can always reach out to the team at BCsystems for expert advice and assistance.

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