QUESTION: Can we write in candidates on our ballots if they were not previously nominated?
ANSWER: The Davis-Stirling Act states that associations can adopt election rules that permit nominations from the floor and write-in candidates. (Civ. Code §5105(b).) By implication, unless your bylaws or election rules provide for write-in candidates, they are not allowed. If that is the case, members cannot write-in candidates on their ballots. If they do, the inspector of elections can deem votes for write-in candidates invalid. Any votes on the ballot for announced candidates would still be valid.
Verification. If write-ins are allowed, the nomination need not take place in advance to be valid. Even so, the write-in candidate will need to be contacted to verify he/she is willing to accept the nomination (in the event a sufficient number of votes are cast to elect the write-in candidate).
Recommendation: Associations should amend their election rules to make clear whether write-in candidates are allowed during elections. If they are allowed, blank lines should be added to the ballot. If they are not allowed, the restriction should be stated on the ballot as well as in the election rules. If there is any uncertainty about whether write-in candidates are allowed, the board should seek a legal opinion on how best to proceed.
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