OPA Board Approves Electronic Voting

OCEAN PINES – Association members will now have the option to participate in electronic voting following a vote this week by the Ocean Pines Board of Directors.

In a special board meeting Monday, the Ocean Pines Association (OPA) Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve the second reading of an amendment to Resolution M-06, which would allow for electronic voting. The board this week also voted to approve a contract with Vote HOA Now for the upcoming Board of Directors election process.

“The passage of this motion means we will be going to a new system of voting, starting with the Board election this year,” President Colette Horn said in a statement this week. “The Board appreciates the thorough review by the Elections Committee, which allowed us to make this change. We believe this will be a benefit for Ocean Pines homeowners.”

In February, the Ocean Pines Elections Committee presented the OPA board with a presentation on electronic voting for future elections abd referendums, as well as cost estimates from four online voting vendors.

Cost estimates ranged from $3,414 to $15,531. Officials noted this week the recommended vendor, Vote HOA Now, presented the lowest bid of $3,414.

“It’s the most cost effective,” Horn said.

In a statement this week, Elections Committee Chairperson Carol Ludwig said the committee had recommended electronic voting as far back as 2020. This year, voters would have the option to return a paper ballot, or to vote online.

“The Elections Committee is pleased that the OPA Board of Directors has accepted their recommendation to include the option of electronic transmission of ballots for the 2022 Board of Directors election,” she said. “Along with the announcement of the annual meeting, eligible property owners will receive the bio insert for the six candidates and a paper ballot/and return envelope, as well as individual random codes to access the online provider’s website.”

Ludwig added that instructions for completing paper or online transmission would be included, and that members could provide their email to the OPA assessment database to receive emailed information from Vote HOA Now. Links to instructional videos and voting website will also be provided at oceanpines.org.

The candidates for the 2022 Board election, in ballot order, are Paula Gray, Amy Peck, Stuart Lakernick, Monica Rakowski, Josette Wheatley and Steve Jacobs. The candidates are vying to fill three vacant positions on the Ocean Pines Board of Directors.

The board this week also voted to table a second reading of amendments to Resolution B-03, which establishes the procedures for holding the community’s annual meeting.

The proposed changes would allow OPA to hold the meeting in a hybrid format, with both in-person and online attendance. Board members, however, agreed to table their decision Monday after sharing concerns about how the association would determine quorums and voter eligibility.

“No one has explained to me how we are going to accurately control who is eligible to be on the meeting, who can vote, and how we determine a quorum,” said Director Larry Perrone.

Perrone explained 100 association members were needed to have a quorum for the annual meeting, but that there was no process in place to verify if online attendees were members. It should be noted annual meetings are open to the public, and attendees are not required to be association members.

Perrone also opined that the implementation of a hybrid format could lessen participation.

“I can’t vote for this,” he said.

After further discussion on potential verification processes, the board voted unanimously to table the motion to give association staff time to develop a solution.

“That should all be laid out how it should be done …,” Perrone said. “It’s got to be in the resolution. That’s my opinion.”

About The Author: Bethany Hooper

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Bethany Hooper has been with The Dispatch since 2016. She currently covers various general stories. Hooper graduated from Stephen Decatur High School in 2012 and the University of Maryland in 2016, where she completed double majors in journalism and economics.