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Every year around this time, I feel like I’m back at sleep away camp with color war about to break out, and leaders of the Blue Team and the Orange Team rallying their troops to victory.  Then I blink and realize I’m in my apartment, and it’s not teams, but slates, that are exhorting fellow residents to vote their way to bring peace and unity to the building.

The first thing you need to understand is that slates are manmade creations that can be taken apart as easily as they are put together. Usually they’re formed as a counter-offensive to oust the incumbent board. Or they can be used as a pre-emptive device to dissuade anyone else from venturing into the fray.

Even more important, you need to know that just because a bunch of owners decide to run as a slate doesn’t mean you have to vote for them as an indivisible entity.  You can pick and choose from the total pool of candidates — slated or unsalted – like the entrees on a Chinese menu, to make up the total number of directors you have to elect.

Sure, the members of the slate will get up and say we stand together like spaghetti soldiers and nothing can tear us apart. This is done to make you believe that if you don’t vote for all of them, none of them will run and there will be NO board so that chaos will reign, not something even the most disaffected among you wants.

Don’t be fooled.  As soon as there’s a whiff of somebody waiting in the wings, the slaters will desert their electoral brethren, turning their professed unity into a free for all, to save their individual skins – something I’ve observed more than once.

If you think the members of the Blue Slate, or the Orange Slate, or any other slate will bring peace and prosperity to your building, by all means vote for them.  But if you don’t there are steps you can take to divide and conquer.

  • Form a counter-slate to knock out their slate and make your own clean sweep.
  • Be a spoiler: Even if you run individually, or with only a few other residents – odds are you can get a few seats at the table, maybe even a majority if you play your cards right, thereby defusing their plans. This is easier if your building has cumulative voting that lets shareholders pool their votes and cast them for as few or as many candidates as they want. (See,   Counter Punch )
  • If you’re left with two competing slates, neither of whose members you’re happy with, you can make sure they’re not happy either. Just divide your votes among the two groups, a strategy that will help assure that people who can’t stand each other will have to sit together – in a confined boardroom – for a whole year – until election time rolls round again.

That’s poetic justice, though not necessarily smart, because it also means that nothing will get done in your building, which may or may not be a good thing, depending on what they had planned in the first place.

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