guest blog by Deborah Goonan
I follow think tanks from both ends of the spectrum, so I can learn how people see important issues from different perspectives. A few days ago, a Cato article on a proposed Voting Rights Amendment came up in my news feed. (See link below)
But while Americans debate the pros and cons of issuing Voter IDs – do they prevent voter fraud, or do they disenfranchise minority voters? – Nobody wants to talk about universal voting rights for residents of HOAs.
That’s nearly 65 million voters, many of them disenfranchised by corporate voting systems that allocate votes per “unit” or “share” owned, Representative Voting Councils, heavy use of proxy ballots, and many unmonitored election processes. Let’s face it. In many HOAs, voting is rigged – in ways that are sometimes technically legal.
Under the current voting system in place in HOAs:
· Investors can simply “bulk buy” control of the Board,
· Developers can hang onto control of their affiliate-appointed Board for years or even decades due to various legal loopholes,
· Board members can intimidate owners into giving up their proxy votes,
· Ballot boxes can be stuffed, mail ballots “lost” or otherwise mishandled
· Owners who are delinquent on their accounts for any reason (even fabricated) cannot vote,
· A handful of Voting Members can legally vote on behalf of hundreds or thousands of owners without any input, and
· Tenants are almost always not allowed to vote even though they have to follow all of the same rules and create equity for their landlord-owners.
As a result of such shenanigans, millions of Americans are subject to the whims of their often-unaccountable HOA Boards. Collectively, HOA residents stand to lose millions of dollars in wasted or misappropriated assessments, their rights guaranteed under the Constitution, and, in too many cases, even their homes.
Last year here in Arizona, SB1482 (the HOA Omnibus) was passed. The bill allows for ’email and facsimile voting.’ Boy did that sound great to a lot of folks. But the unintended consequences of this legislation hasn’t quite surfaced yet.
The legislation doesn’t say how these email and faxed ballots are to be verified. Now let’s just say, hypothetically, some unscrupulous and potential board members, faxes or emails in votes on behalf of other members. Trust me when I tell you, It’s going to happen.
Anyone can just go to their county’s assessors page, punch in the associations address, and BINGO, there is the name of every unit owner and their lot numbers. Phony email addresses and faxes, with no return numbers, are setting Arizona HOAs up for massive voting fraud. I’m sure we will be reading about this in the newspapers someday soon.
Now Representative Michelle Ugenti ‘AKA the’ Bimbo’ was the bills sponsor, and was warned of these ‘unintended consequences,’ but the Bimbo, had the blessing of the CAI and her real estate buds. Former Governor, ‘Blondie Brewer’ was also advised of these ‘unintended consequences,’ but she placed the pen in-between her hoof and signed the bill into law despite the warning.
As we all know well, just like with government elections, voter turnout is a joke. But the joke here is going to be on the homeowners and the crooked board members who will be stuffing the HOA ballot boxes all over the state of Arizona, thus illegally winning their positions of trust.
The Cato Institute, or even Colorado’s Independence Institute, ignore vote fraud in H.O.A. corporations because conservative & libertarian think-tanks love H.O.A. corporations.
From Wikipedia: “Originally, the U.S. Constitution did not define who was eligible to vote, allowing each state to determine who was eligible. In the early history of U.S., most states allowed only Caucasian males — who either owned property (i.e., at least 50 acres of land), or, had taxable incomes — to vote.”
The idea was that property owners and tax-payers have a stake in the community, and could therefore be expected to exercise their voting rights in the best interests of the community, whereas others could not. Think of the current attitude in H.O.A.s towards renters mentioned earlier on this blog. If you talk to enough conservatives and libertarians, you would be surprised how many of them think that we should go back to a system where only property owners and/or tax-payers should be allowed to vote. “One property, one vote” is their vision for America. On the “other” side — liberals and progressives — believe that anyone with a pulse should be allowed to vote, regardless of eligibility — and even that whole “pulse” thing isn’t really a strict requirement (cf, Chicago).
So, in a way, both Republicans (limited franchise) and Democrats (unchecked fraud) have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo vis-a-vis the abysmal voting situation in H.O.A. corporations.
See Evan McKenzie’s blog post, “Points To Be Aware Of In HOA scandal” ( Monday, June 04 2012 ), at http://privatopia.blogspot.com/2012/06/points-to-be-aware-of-in-hoa-scandal.html
On November 15 2011 Mitt Romney said
Funny how Mitt Romney and the G.O.P. do not believe that American home owners deserve those same rights vis-a-vis their H.O.A. corporations. Can you imagine a Republican saying something like:
American home owners deserve a number of rights:
1. Right to a secret ballot
2. Right to at least 30 days notice before an H.O.A. election
3. Right to live in a non-H.O.A. home
4. Right to know that if they are involuntary members of an H.O.A. corporation, their dues shouldn’t go to politicans they disagree with (via the C.A.I.’s lobbying efforts).
Neither can I.
Robert, you make some good points that confirm the ones I have made in the blog (actually more than one blog) about voting. In my opinion this is one of the key issues to impress upon home BUYERS and American taxpayers as proof positive that the HOA system of governance does not work for our country. Non-Universal, loosely regulated corporate-style Voting in HOAs fundamentally transforms our government by undermining it at the most local level – right where we live.
I think if we are all willing to make a concerted effort to repeat and drive home specific talking points like this to our elected representatives at ALL levels of government, no matter which party affiliation, we can drive the point home.
Other key points would be the very real health and financial risks to residents living in HOAs, and the fact that HOAs ultimately cost the taxpayers a great deal of money picking up the pieces following inevitable economic, health, and social upheaval and decay.