Write-in Votes – A Protected Right

Texas state law requires a homeowners association to adhere to the terms of its bylaws. Like every other properly run homeowners association, our bylaws include a provision stating the basis for our parliamentary procedure. And like all parliamentary authorities, our parliamentary law – the 2011 version of Robert’s Rules of Order – recognizes the right of homeowners to cast a write-in vote, naming a candidate other than one who has been formally nominated.

Common sense informs us that a write-in candidate is of a completely different class than a nominee. But like all recognized parliamentary authorities, Robert’s Rules makes the distinction clear. Rules that are set forth for nominations – for instance, deadlines for nominations, listing on the ballot, et cetera – do not apply to write-in candidates; nor do any rules for nominees restrict a homeowner’s right to write in the name of a person who has not been nominated.

A homeowner’s right to a write-in vote requires no special action of our Board other than the action that was already taken in adopting a parliamentary authority. To suggest that the Board needs to explicitly authorize a write-in vote is as uninformed as it would be to suggest that the Board might need to make a motion to adopt a bylaw merely to have a procedure to call meetings to order or a procedure to adjourn meetings or to conduct any business whatsoever in between. No. Once the Board has adopted its parliamentary authority, that parliamentary law’s stated recognition of the right to a right-in vote is sufficient. Indeed, Robert’s Rules of Order and all recognized parliamentary authorities clearly indicate the reverse situation: the right to a write-in vote exists under parliamentary law unless  the Board takes explicit action to eliminate that right; and all recognized parliamentary authorities strongly advise against elimination of so crucial a right.

If the Board persists in maintaining a policy that write-in votes will not be counted and that ballots containing write-in votes will not be accepted, then it is failing to apply the parliamentary authority prescribed by our bylaws. And if the Board persists in failing to apply our stated parliamentary law, then it is failing to comply with state law requiring us to adhere to our bylaws. To continue down that line disenfranchises all homeowners – even those who do not elect to write in a candidate – of one of our most sacred rights and freedoms: the right to freely exercise our choice in voting.

Real leadership protects all voters’ rights that are guaranteed by the law, by our bylaws and by our recognized parliamentary procedures.

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