According to a recent article featured in the Miami Herald, “in 2015, Miami-Dade recorded the highest number of complaints of irregularities and fraud in the administration of condos of any county in Florida.”
Three high-profile allegations of electoral fraud were high-lighted in the Herald piece: at The Beach Club, Los Sueños and Bella Venezia. However, these are just among hundreds of other complaints submitted to authorities in 2015.
With nearly 1.6 million condos in Florida, and almost 40% of those in Miami-Dade and Broward — and more being built daily – condo associations can expect increased scrutiny from state and local regulators.
More recently, on April 15th, the Herald reported that Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Giménez said he will be traveling to Tallahassee during the legislative session to support a group of state lawmakers from South Florida who are seeking to reform state legislation in order to crack down on the growing wave of condominium frauds.
What Should An Association Do to Avoid Fraud Allegations?
With so many prevalent accusations of voter fraud occurring in our area, now more than ever condo associations must pay scrupulous attention to their record keeping and election practices. Most accusations of fraud stem from falsification of ballots. The Florida Administrative Code sets forth several rules and regulations on ballots and counting procedures with which condo boards must comply. For example, Section 61B-23.0021 of the Code requires the following processes be followed before ballots can be accepted and counted.
- Maintain accurate, updated records showing the current owners of all the units.
- The signature and unit identification on the outer envelope shall be checked against a list of qualified voters by the impartial election committee.
- Where voting certificates are required for multiple or corporate owners, the voting certificates must be on file and the person signing the ballot envelope can only be the person who was designated on the voting certificate as the eligible voter.
- Any exterior envelope which is not signed by the eligible voter shall be marked “Disregarded” and shall not be counted.
But in addition to the safeguards required by the state, it is a good idea for condo associations to implement additional measures to ensure their election processes are beyond reproach. Some such measures could include watermarked ballots so they cannot be photocopied, or require only votes cast in person by residents with photo IDs.
Clean condo board elections not only ensure state compliance, but more importantly, that those elected to the condo board accurately reflect the will of the residents. Many of the complaints levied against the various boards in Dade and Broward counties, allege that board members basically “stole” their positions on the board. They further allege that unscrupulous board members maintain their power through manipulation, intimidation and other crooked means.
Having proper procedures in place, also ensures that the will of the residents is rightfully represented, and those on the board, are the ones actually intended to be there.
How MBAF Can Help
At MBAF we have conducted many audits of condo associations regarding their balloting processes. We can help you to implement election fraud mitigation policies, and often working with your attorneys, we can develop detailed “first notice,” and “second notice” procedures for receipt and distribution of Candidate Application Forms and voting procedures.
We can also advise you on proper Validation of Voting Certificates, how to handle proxies, and implement a plan of suitable record keeping, so that in the event of any accusations of improper procedures, you can have all the necessary documentation and discovery in place to prove otherwise.
Many condo associations are opting for electronic voting as a way to combat voter fraud and guarantee election results. MBAF can also help you to implement and transition to an E-voting platform.
Audits of Condominium Associations and their voting practices are a highly specialized segment of the industry and should not be performed by a firm without the proper experience. If you would like to benefit from our expertise in these areas, or if you have further questions on this Advisory, do not hesitate to contact our Assurance Specialists, or call us at 1-800-239-1474.