Is that an old hand?
Virtual meetings have become a feature of our daily lives over the past few years. “You’re on mute” and “can you see my screen” have become even more familiar than the chairperson’s opening, welcome and confirmation of quorum.
Community schemes followed suit with the rest of the world and held virtual meetings to continue conducting business and still maintain social distancing. According to Prescribed Management Rule (PMR) 17(10) of the Sectional Titles Schemes Management Act 8 of 2011 (STSMA) Regulations, bodies corporate of Sectional Title Schemes can hold general meetings (both annual and special) via virtual means, as long as the method is:
- Accessible to all members and other persons entitled to attend;
- Allow for communication between all members at the meeting; and
- Allow for attendees to be identified by the chairperson.
Virtual meetings were found to be far more convenient for more members of bodies corporate to attend when compared to in-person meetings. However, it remains vital to ensure the meeting protocols comply with the same rules and regulations as in-person general meetings.
Show of hands
Despite being able to attend a general meeting from the comfort of your couch, regulations regarding voting on resolutions remain consistent with those in the real world. Should a dispute arise in terms of the outcome, it would be crucial to have a record of the votes available to present as evidence.
In terms of PMR 20(8), the chairperson needs to calculate and announce the outcome of the voting process at the meeting for it to be captured in the meeting minutes. Additionally, PMR 20(1) specifies that the results of the voting process are calculated by making use of the value of each eligible vote (based on the member’s total participation quota), except for special and unanimous resolutions where the votes must be calculated in value and in number (each member, despite the number of units they own, has 1 vote).
Those familiar with platforms like Zoom and Microsoft Teams are no doubt familiar with meeting attendees raising their hands (and forgetting to lower them). The raising of hands not only allows for maintaining order and avoiding a cacophony of disembodied voices all trying to speak at the same time but is often employed as a means to confirm a show of support for a proposed motion.
For the chairperson to confirm that a person was (1) eligible to vote, (2) calculate the correct value and/or number of the vote allocated to a member, and (3) keep a record of all votes cast and the voting process, it is necessary that voting takes the form of a ballot that could be documented. This would necessarily exclude the raising of hands to vote on a resolution in a virtual general meeting.
Voting cards in virtual meetings
PMR 17 deals with regulations governing how annual and special sectional title general meetings are to be conducted. PMR 17(16)(a) specifically states that the supply of “voting cards” to meeting attendees who are eligible to vote should be one of the very first actions taking place at a general meeting. During in-person meetings voting cards are usually handed to eligible voters during the meeting registration where a quorum is established (click here for more on resolution quorum and voting).
The fact that the concept of “voting cards” is not explicitly defined in the Act, has resulted in some uncertainty about what would constitute a valid voting process during a virtual meeting. To keep a detailed record of the process, it is recommended that the following information be documented for each vote:
- the name of the voter (or in the event of a proxy holder, who they are voting on behalf of),
- the unit number (or some other way to determine participation quota)
- the resolution being voted for,
- and the vote — in favour of, or against.
How to conduct voting in virtual meetings?
Voting on resolutions by a show of hands at a sectional title general meeting is not permissible. However, there are several ways to vote that would allow for an accurate record of proceedings to be kept, which could result in varying degrees of administrative complexities.
- If the meeting is recorded, the vote can be conducted on the virtual meeting platform’s chat function. This option however presents a challenge to ensure that all the necessary information is provided by each voter, but it will be accepted as the votes will be confirmed in writing.
- A voting card can be included as an electronic form in the meeting pack before the meeting, or provided at the start of the meeting during the registration process.
- A digital voting management system can be employed. This option is by far the most efficient way to conduct virtual voting processes. Sectional Title Solutions has partnered with GLOVent to provide an integrated Community Management System (CMS) as part of our suite of Smart Technology solutions on offer. Apart from a host of other functionalities, the CMS includes a state-of-the-art electronic voting functionality that considers all compliance elements such as proxies and voting eligibility. Contact us to find out more.
Whichever way you decide to conduct your community scheme’s voting process at your next general meeting, please ensure that you follow the correct procedure that allows for a detailed record of the votes. This will protect you and your members’ interests.