A Statement on the Latest Village Elections
Columbia Association (CA) has received some questions about the latest election process. In the spirit of transparency, we want to convey what took place this year and, most importantly, why.
You may be surprised to learn that in years past, CA would cast votes in elections for village boards and our very own Board of Directors. Those votes would typically be cast after the general election and added to the count for the candidate who had already won the election. In other words, those votes did not change the outcome of any election. It could be argued, however, that the final numbers provided a misleading picture of the level of community engagement in these important community events. Furthermore, these votes could be interpreted as an endorsement, even if they were never intended to be.
It’s important to note that this has been simply a business practice. It is not a policy or requirement in our governing documents. As an organization, CA is in no way compelled or required to cast its votes in village elections. In fact, it has been a general community expectation that CA maintains a neutral stance in all election-related activities. The decision to refrain from voting is a demonstration of that neutrality and transparency by allowing our community to understand the true results of our elections. This inaction is not withholding votes from any village, but simply a choice not to exercise that option. Furthermore, it would be a clear conflict of interest to have our sitting Board of Directors be involved in decisions around how CA casts its votes since the outcome of any election cycle could have a direct impact on them keeping their seat on the Board.
The candidate pool this year required us, as an organization, to review and adjust the past practice of casting CA votes. In this specific circumstance, we determined that not casting CA’s votes presented the least amount of risk to the organization, our team members and the people we serve every day.
We are working to address concerns – primarily from villages – about reaching quorum. By definition, a quorum is relevant when a meeting is taking place. After a thorough review of election bylaws, CA determined there is a clear distinction between holding an election and holding a meeting. The conclusion is in no way meant to imply that elections are not being conducted in an appropriate manner. That said, the way in which the elections are held does not constitute a meeting, which makes the idea of a quorum requirement irrelevant.
The practice of using CA votes in each election to increase the number of votes or secure a certain turnout speaks to a deeper issue: the need to improve engagement in Columbia. CA is committed to working with village managers to coordinate promotional efforts and improve understanding of the roles of the elected positions for villages and CA to help increase the level of engagement among residents and commercial property owners and ensure that their voices are heard in the elections to come.
“I believe strongly in the power and importance of the democratic process, so I’ve been surprised to hear some people say that CA somehow impeded democracy by not casting its votes,” CA President/CEO Lakey Boyd said. “In my experience, democracy is rooted in the will of the people. I am hopeful that our community understands that maintaining neutrality and allowing the residents to truly choose who should represent them at the village level and on the CA Board was the best course of action.”