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CAMPAIGNING FOR THE BOARD

Boards can include factual information about ballot proposals but not their recommendations. To maintain fairness in the election process, the ballot and accompanying materials must remain neutral.

Campaign Material. Apart from the official mailing, board members have the right to campaign at their own expense. They can support or oppose candidates, amendments, assessments, etc. However, if they use association funds to advocate their position, then homeowners must also be given the opportunity to express their opinions at association expense. (Civ. Code § 5105(a)(1).)

Campaign Liability. Candidates shall, by statute, indemnify and hold the corporation, its agents, officers, directors, and employees and each of them harmless from all demands, costs, including reasonable legal fees and expenses, claims, damages and causes of action arising out of such material or any such mailing or publication. (Corp. Code § 7525.)

Membership List. Candidates have the right to receive a copy of the membership list for the purposes of campaigning for the board. 

Association Media. If any candidate or member advocating a point of view is provided access to association media (such as newsletters and internet websites) during a campaign, for purposes that are reasonably related to that election, the association must provide equal access to all candidates and members advocating a point of view on the issue. (Civ. Code § 5105(a).)

Meeting Space. Associations must ensure access to the common area meeting space, if any exists, during a campaign, at no cost, to all candidates, including those who are not incumbents, and to all members advocating a point of view, including those not endorsed by the board, for purposes reasonably related to the election. (Civ. Code § 5105(a)(2).)

"Sample" Ballots. In addition, anyone can send campaign materials that include a sample ballot premarked with their recommended votes. If they send a campaign ballot, the sender must be very clear that it cannot be used in place of the official ballot. To avoid any confusion, the ballot should have "SAMPLE" stamped across it. If members use campaign ballots in place of official ballots, they will be voided by the Inspectors of Election.

Electioneering. Persons may conduct normal campaign activities such as mailers, campaign speeches, door to door solicitations, and the like. Using California's Election Code as a guideline, it prohibits soliciting votes or electioneering at any time a voter may be casting a ballot.

No candidate or representative of a candidate, and no proponent, opponent, or representative of a proponent or opponent, of an initiative, referendum, or recall measure, or of a charter amendment, shall solicit the vote of an absentee voter, or do any electioneering, while in the residence or in the immediate presence of the voter, and during the time he or she knows the absentee voter is voting. (Elections Code § 18371(a).)

As provided for in the Code, any solicitation or attempt to influence a voter under these sections is guilty of a misdemeanor. The same rules against solicitation and electioneering should apply to associations so that members can vote without intimidation or undue influence.

Diverting Ballots. Homeowners campaigning for or against special assessments, election of directors, removal of directors, or the like cannot induce owners to divert ballots away from the Inspectors of Election. Both the Election Code and the Davis-Stirling Act require that voters either mail or deliver their ballots in person to election officials. (Elections Code § 3017Civ. Code § 5115.)

ASSISTANCE: Associations needing legal assistance can contact us. To stay current with issues affecting community associations, subscribe to the Davis-Stirling Newsletter.

Adams Stirling PLC