Ocean Pines Association to retain paper, while adding online option for members
By Greg Ellison
(Feb. 13, 2020) While not completely switching from paper ballots in the Ocean Pines Association 2020 election this summer, the OPA Election Committee last week agreed to incorporate a new voting system that will provide an online option.
Election Committee Chairman Steve Habeger said during the group’s meeting in January that the committee had examined many voting options, including systems that allowed online and telephone voting.
“We decided to make minimal changes to the voting process for 2020 and maybe the next 2-3 years,” he said.
OPA IT manager Steve Grabowski, who has been helping research system prices, obtained costs for a scanner and laptop required to continue conducting the elections in-house.
During last month’s meeting, Grabowski presented his findings and said ProScan Snap Survey seemed to offer the best choice for price and service.
“I don’t see us going away from paper ballots next year,” he said. “Which means that we’d have to do this again or we’d have to find another solution.”
Habeger said the new system would permit OPA leadership to design ballots, which could include color photographs of candidates.
“What we’re headed to is a very modest change to the balloting process that people have been used to for a long time, with the potential of changing in the future,” he said.
While the new election system would permit either paper ballots or online voting, the telephone option was found to be cost prohibitive.
Grabowski said the cost to vote by phone would add roughly $20,000 to the tab.
“These guys will do telephone, but you actually have to set up a call center,” he said.
As for online voting, Grabowski said voters would be issued a code for online use.
“We can introduce the online part of it next year to see who bites,” he said. “It’s a good way to stick your toes in the water.”
Committee member Bob Windsor noted the replacement effort was undertaken after the previously used scanner outlived its usefulness.
The committee voted unanimously to budget up to $4,500 to buy a scanner and laptop for the OPA elections.
The committee also approved a request to bid for ballot printing, mailing and processing services.
, who said the new year’s proposed budget includes $15,000 for printing services, suggested increasing the figure to $20,000 after costs topped $15,500 last year.
Habeger said new stipulations were included in the bid package for printing services to assure that association members are notified of the election regardless of their eligibility.
That adaptation follows up on a notice the committee received last year that the association bylaws require notification of all members.
That had been the procedure years earlier, but it was abandoned in recent times, Habeger said.
“We’re going to prepare and send more material than we had in the previous contracts over the past years,” he said.
For the 2020 election, eligible members will be mailed a voting package and members deemed ineligible to vote will be notified by letter.
Another stipulation in the bid proposal is that the contractor must provide trained personnel to operate the election computer and scanner. OPA members are prohibited from serving in those roles.
In the 2019 election, the association had 7,957 eligible voters and 768 members who were ineligible for reasons such as failure to pay annual assessments or continues to violate the declaration of restrictions after being advised of that violation by the board.