Q&A: Voting vs. Privacy

Q. I live in Illinois. We are having our annual meeting to elect board members. Ballots were sent to each unit to vote. Our management company wants our voted ballots to be signed and returned by mail before our annual meeting. I feel my vote is private. I plan on attending the meeting, but I do not want to sign. Can I be made to sign if I want to vote?

                               —Can’t Be Bothered

A. “Whether voting by mail or at the annual meeting in person,” says attorney Adam Kahn of Chicago-based firm Levenfeld Pearlstein, LLC, “unit owners must sign their ballot for it to be valid. The exception to this rule is if a condominium association’s board had adopted a rule allowing for secret balloting pursuant to Section 18(b)(10) of the Illinois Condominium Property Act (‘ICPA’), ‘whereby the voting ballot is marked only with the percentage interest for the unit and the vote itself[.]’ Absent the adoption of a rule for secret balloting, a ballot must be signed to be proper. While voting by mail (i.e., absentee ballot) allows a unit owner to vote without attending an annual meeting if an absentee ballot rule is in effect per Section 18(b)9)(B) of the ICPA, of course, a unit owner can attend the annual meeting in person and vote at that time.

“Contrary to many unit owners’ understanding, votes are not confidential in that Section 19 of ICPA provides that ‘ballots and proxies related to ballots for all matters voted on by the members of the association during the immediately preceding 12 months, including but not limited to the election of members of the board of managers,’ [must be kept and maintained for examination,] which means that unless secret ballot rules are in effect, annual election ballots are subject to inspection by other unit owners.”

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