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Counter Punch

Just because incumbents have the advantage, which you know if you’ve been reading (see, Advantage Incumbents), doesn’t mean you can’t get out the vote and prevail in High Rise Society elections.  But you need to be strategic.  Here are a few steps that can help.

Take Pre-emptive Action: One way to beat incumbents is to prevent them from running.  I’m not suggesting anything sinister, only that you amend the bylaws to impose term limits — the opposite of what our Mayor did to get re-elected.  Usually it takes the approval of two-thirds of owners, but if you succeed, odds are you can prevent at least the most entrenched incumbents from running, thereby clearing a path to potential victory.

Get a Shareholder List: Under the law shareholders are entitled to a list of owners and their addresses.  In condos it’s not as clear, though most follow the lead of co-ops.  Once you can get the information, you can go directly to fellow owners (residents and non-residents alike) and ask for their proxies. This goes part way toward leveling the playing field, but the sitting board still has an advantage because it likely has owner phone numbers and email addresses, which it isn’t legally required to give you.

Go Door to Door: There’s no substitute for campaigning face-to-face with your neighbors though you run the risk of finding them in their underwear or dragging them from their favorite TV show or interrupting a fight with their kids, which can put them in a bad mood. That’s why I refuse to go this route, effective as it can be if you have a Clintonian disposition, which I don’t

Run Together: If you think the entire lot is vulnerable and they’re running together as a slate, you may want to run as part of a counter-slate so that owners don’t have to pick and choose, but can make a single decision — blue team or gold team. Understand even though you run together doesn’t mean owners have to vote for all of you – or all of them – so you might wind up sitting across the table from your nemesis. If only a few incumbents are at risk, it might be better to pool your votes if you can (see below) to get as many on board as possible.

Request Inspectors: Usually vote counting is sort of on the honor system.  Management tallies the results, owners are told who won, and are expected to take it on faith that the results are right. But if you’re concerned about creative vote counting or contemplate a hotly contested election, you can request, and the board must appoint, an inspector of election to be sure everything is done right.

Use Power Voting: Check to see if your building has what’s called cumulative voting. If you do, each vote packs more of a punch because you can pool them to get yourself or fellow candidates on the board.  With regular voting you just divide your votes equally among candidates.  But with cumulative voting, you can multiply the number of your votes by the number of directors up for election, and then cast that total amount for a single director or as many or few directors as you want. Say you have 100 votes for each of the 5 directors up for election.  Instead of casting 100 votes for each, under cumulative voting you can vote all 500 shares (5 x 100) for one candidate. By joining together to pool all your votes and cast them for a finite number of directors, odds are you can win at least a few seats, thus breaking the existing stranglehold.

Challenge the Election: If despite your efforts, the incumbents remain in power, and you’re convinced the process is tainted (not just that you don’t like the result), you can go to court to challenge the election. But it takes time and money to do, which is why most owners don’t, though if you do, the court can order a new election — and production of the vote tallies — so at least you’ll know who’s your real competition come next year.

N.B. The Condo Act is silent on many election-related issues, leaving many condos to look to the law applicable to co-ops.

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