by Kevin Dicciani

The board of the Chestnut Hill Community Association voted at its Feb. 26 meeting to adopt the 2015 CHCA Election and Voting Procedures, choosing to exclude a plan to implement an online voting process that, for some members, became a source of disappointment.

Laura Lucas, vice president for the operations division, along with co-chairs of the election committee, George Coates and Sam Earle, discussed this year’s election procedures, which, she said, she hopes is more “streamlined” than it was in previous years.

One of the major changes to be made, Lucas said, is the adoption of one specific list that details the names and information of every CHCA member, referred to as a “Source of Truth.” This list allows those who are counting the votes to fact-check data and see that the votes cast are credible.

Last year, Lucas said, two “sources of truth” existed; one was the CHCA’s membership list, the other from the Chestnut Hill Local’s circulation department.

“What we wanted to do was go back and establish one ‘source of truth,’” Lucas said, “and it should be our membership list.”

Another alteration, Lucas said, is to push back the cutoff date for mailed-in ballots to 5 p.m., April 22, the day before the annual meeting. This will allow for the “Source of Truth” and other records to be printed and checked over in a less hurried, more accurate manner.

The last point of discussion, the one in contention, was the plan to create a system in which members can cast their votes online, while still giving members the option to vote by a standard written ballot if they so choose.

Lucas said the idea is to bring the voting process up to 21st century standards. She also said that giving members the chance to vote online may be a way to increase voter turnout, which has been low.

The validation and tabulation of the votes would increase privacy and expedite the process, Lucas said. The votes would then be counted by a vendor, whose fee would be around $2,500.

William Detweiler, CHCA president, questioned whether or not the system of online voting could be implemented correctly in such a short amount of time.

George Coates, co-chair of the election committee, said that from an implementation point of view the process is “very simple and very quick,” and that it is a matter of training the CHCA’s membership to be ready for the new system.

Detweiler said it’s not so much a matter of the actual implementation process being simple or not – rather, he asked, given the short amount of time until the election, can the necessary steps be completed within the brief time frame, such as seeing if the system is valid within the bylaws.

Julie Byrne, co-chair of the bylaws committee, pointed out that the bylaws say that members must vote by “secret, written ballot.”

Discussing whether the word ‘written’ would cover online voting, board member Richard Snowden suggested it would be sensible for the board to consult with a lawyer before approving a procedure that may or may not be authorized by the bylaws. And since the procedure needed to be approved that night, lest there be no election, and being that a lawyer was not present, Snowden said he could not support the procedure if the online voting system was included within it.

“I’m all for going to this online thing for next year,” Snowden said, “but not at the eleventh hour.”

Board member Joyce Lenhardt then asked if the vendor’s fee of $2,500 was a one-time fee or whether it reoccurs each year. Lucas said the fee would need to be paid each year, but that the community association would work with the vendor to lower the price in subsequent years.

“$2,500 is a lot in our budget, and we’re in the red this year,” said board member Liz Bales. “$2,500 is not loose change – that’s folding money.”

Examining the budget further, board member Tony Reilly said the board cannot afford to spend $2,500.

“There’s no money for it in this proposed budget,” Reilly said. “We can’t afford it.”

After hearing this, board member Mark Keintz, who earlier made a motion to approve the totality of the procedures, withdrew his motion.

Bales then made a motion to adopt the procedures – excluding the online voting component. The motion was carried.

In other news

The board is in the process of finalizing all proposed amendments to its bylaws in order to reflect its newly obtained 501(c)(3) status.

Treasurer Bob Rossman reemphasized that the CHCA (a Pennsylvania corporation) and the Chestnut Hill Local (a Delaware corporation) must be two legally separate organizations, but the CHCA still wants to maintain as much control over the Local as legally possible, as it is its biggest financial asset. Rossman said the CHCA will approve the Local’s annual budget and will receive two financial reports from the Local a year. The CHCA can appoint directors to the Local’s board, which will consist of five to nine members who cannot be exactly the same as those serving on the CHCA board, although there may be some overlap.

The Bylaws Committee hopes to complete this process at its next meeting on March 4.