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Should late ballots be counted?


Mark50
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Our covenants state ... "amendments must be approved by Members holding at least two-thirds (2/3) of the total votes received by the Association with a minimum of two hundred (200) votes returned."  A recent meeting had over 80 percent approval for an amendment but only received 198 total votes as of the start of the meeting.  Because we did not meet the 200 vote threshold, the amendment was deemed "not approved."  However, mail delivery was delayed on the day of the meeting and an additional 6 votes were received in the late afternoon mail.  Can we count the 6 votes because they were mailed on time but the post office delayed their delivery?  Counting the 6 votes will changes the vote results. 

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I presume from your post that this was a mail ballot. If so, what was the exact wording of the language regarding the deadline for returning and receiving ballots? In order to be counted, ballots normally must be received (or sometimes postmarked) by the date and time specified. If they are late, they are normally not counted, just as your vote for President of the United States or for any other office will not be counted if you show up at the polls after they have been closed or if a mail ballot is postmarked after the deadline  or received after the deadline for receiving ballots.  It is one of the hazards of voting by mail. 

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Supplementing my post above, if there is a point of order raised that these late arriving ballots should be counted, it may have to be resolved by first a ruling of the chair and then an appeal to the assembly. However, a determination on whether to count late arriving ballots should be made before the ballots are even opened so that the decision is based on the circumstances surrounding the late arriving ballots rather than how they affect the outcome.  Whether they might affect the outcome is a legitimate consideration, but not the way in which they affect the outcome. 

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Mr. Brown:  A copy of the proposed amendment was mailed to every member with instructions to either vote by mail or vote in person at the annual meeting.  People voting by mail were instructed to use the enclosed postage paid envelope and mail their ballot so it would arrive no later than the day of the meeting.  Mail is normally delivered by 2:00 PM and the meeting started at 6:00 PM.  The staff left the office at 4:30 PM to assist with the set-up of the auditorium and they had not received any mail at that time.  Consequently, as of the start of the amendment discussion we had 198 completed ballots and the amendment was declared "Not Approved" because we did not meet the 200 ballot requirement.  When the staff returned to the office after the meeting they discovered that the mail had arrived late and it contained an additional 6 ballots.  We did not know that the mail was delayed on the meeting date and we did not know of the existence of the 6 additional ballots during the meeting.  Therefore, no point of order was raised about late arriving ballots.  Technically, the ballots were mailed in time to arrive by the date of the meeting and technically they did arrive on the date of the meeting but, due to a delivery delay by the US mail system, we did not count them.  Had they been counted we would have had 204 votes with over 80 percent approval. 

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I think that under the provisions of section 46:49 (e), a sufficient number of members to affect the outcome of the vote were denied the right to vote. I would raise a point of order to that effect at the next meeting. For your reference, here is the text of the section I referred to:

e) If a number of members sufficient to affect the result are improperly prevented from voting in an election, action has been taken in violation of a rule protecting a basic right of the individual member.

Edited to add: let me add two points. First, RONR advises against mixing mail in  votes with in person votes. However, if you are going to continue permitting mail ballots, I would suggest a bylaw amendment or the adoption of a special rule of order that provides for a precise date and time by which ballots must be received in order to be counted. 

Edited by Richard Brown
Added last paragraph
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9 minutes ago, Guest Mark50 said:

Mr. Brown:  A copy of the proposed amendment was mailed to every member with instructions to either vote by mail or vote in person at the annual meeting.  People voting by mail were instructed to use the enclosed postage paid envelope and mail their ballot so it would arrive no later than the day of the meeting.  Mail is normally delivered by 2:00 PM and the meeting started at 6:00 PM.  The staff left the office at 4:30 PM to assist with the set-up of the auditorium and they had not received any mail at that time.  Consequently, as of the start of the amendment discussion we had 198 completed ballots and the amendment was declared "Not Approved" because we did not meet the 200 ballot requirement.  When the staff returned to the office after the meeting they discovered that the mail had arrived late and it contained an additional 6 ballots.  We did not know that the mail was delayed on the meeting date and we did not know of the existence of the 6 additional ballots during the meeting.  Therefore, no point of order was raised about late arriving ballots.  Technically, the ballots were mailed in time to arrive by the date of the meeting and technically they did arrive on the date of the meeting but, due to a delivery delay by the US mail system, we did not count them.  Had they been counted we would have had 204 votes with over 80 percent approval. 

If you just had send a staff member at 5:30 to check for post then none of this would have happened.

(I presume you could have known  that the post delivery was late  , or is there at most days no post tall?)

As it stands the ballots did arrive at the day of the meeting.  

I am not sure on how to proceed 

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