You Can't Beat City Hall

...or your own silly Condo board. For the second time I've run for and been shot down running for the association board for my condominium development.

The board determines the budget, handles rules infractions, and controls the contract with our management company. The current board, though well meaning, has made a lot of choices I haven't understood and they haven't felt it necessary to explain.

The first time I ran, two years ago, I ran offering a "do nothing" board. I wanted the board to do as little as possible with as little as possible and feared things wouldn't go that way without my involvement. I didn't make the board then and we have had a very... hands on board.

Now two years later, with a large portion of the condo residents unhappy with the board's spending, medaling, and secrecy I ran a campaign promising a more transparent board. I got the majority of the vote of those present at the meeting, but couldn't out number the proxies.

You see rather than have absentee ballots for the 80% of the residents that didn't attend the meeting the board mailed to each of them a form, the signing of which would proxy their voting power to the existing board. So even though most of the people at the meeting voted for me the 32 proxy votes that were cast against me in advance outweighed them. Knowing about the proxy system from prior sham elections I'd created a proxy form that assigned votes to me and had distributed them as best I could without the postal resources the board had. That yielded 16 votes but even those couldn't overcome the 32 votes the board had been given.

Fortunately, there will be another election in just one short year and two of the five seats will be up for grabs. In the meantime I'll be continuing to help maintain for the visibility and working to get the proxy system replaced with absentee ballots and prior nominations.

To think, all this work just to get on a board and block actions.


Interesting story, Ry4an.

I think your platform this year is a winning message and you should continue on it next year. To win next time, organize, organize, organize.

I just attended Camp Wellstone <>, where I learned the basics of organizing a campaign. You might find it useful to attend their candidate track next time they have a program. When I did it, it was about $50.

Here's some of what I learned there, as it applies to your situation [aside: as I wrote this, I realized this could be pretty fun. I'll be your campaign manager if you want...].


The campaign plan is your blueprint for the campaign: how you get to 50% + 1 votes. This will include the size of the voter universe, how many votes you need to win, and what you're willing to spend to do it (budget). You'll also define your message here (accountability and transparency).


Every campaign comes down to lists: supporters, opponents' supporters, donors, volunteers.

Make a list of your core supporters. Add to it those who voted for you last time either by proxy or in person. Also keep track of those who opposed you and the proxy votes they control.


Using your list of supporters, contact them during the year long before the election to let them know you're going to run again, for accountablity and transparency. Line up their support as the basis for your "grassroots" campaign. Get them to assign their votes to you in proxy, and talk their neighbors into doing so as well. This is where you can economically start giving people proxy forms. If you consolidate your base and enlist some of them as volunteers, you can probably have a few of them run off copies to give to neighbors as well.


After you consolidate your base, you need to expand it. is good for this purpose, as are volunteers you can drum up. You're already regularly attending community meetings, so that is a good place to get support as well. Bring a few copies of literature and proxy vote forms to these meetings to give to people.

Remember to keep track of the people you're contacting in your database.


A few weeks before the vote, start going after potential voters you don't have a personal relationship with. Go door knocking and talk to people. Likely, the will be upset about something the Board is doing. Let them know you're going to fight to make the board more accountable to the residents. This is where literature and proxy form dropping come in.

From your Campaign Plan, you know how many votes you need to win; from your database, you know how many you have. Now, make up the difference.


Starting a few days before the vote, call the people on your list of supporters to see if they're going to the vote meeting. If not, get a proxy form from them (send a volunteer to collect it so you can keep calling).

-- Luke Francl

'd totally take you up on help with this November's election. When writing for and especially speaking for campaign related stuff I have a hard time walking the line between soudning committed and sounding goofy.

I still thing the biggest help would be to get the election rules switched to something more fair, but there's the same problem as with respect to getting IRV in the USA -- the currently controlling parties have no reason to support any change in the way controlling parties are selected.

-- Ry4an

I'd be happy to come over sometime and plot strategy. You should hash out your list of supporters and opponents and how many votes they control before you forget too much.

Regarding changing the voting system, the only way you're going to do that is by getting a majority of the board to agree to it. That means you might need to elect more people to the board than just yourself, unless you can win over the current board with your rhetorical charms.

So why not surprise the board by winning under their rigged system?

-- Luke Francl

Yeah, that sounds fun. Within the condo association everyone's largely anonymous -- I don't know the names of any residents that aren't on the board or weren't previously known to me. Unfortunately, I didn't even think to write down the names of the sixteen people who did proxy their votes to me. It may be that if I provide the copies I could get the board to include me as one of the people to whom votes can be proxied on the form they mail out. Currently that list includes each of the current board members and a management company representative.

The site gathers email addresses and I've got the ability to send out a mass email through that channel which'll hit 50 to 100 of the units. As for making lists the board is launching an official website on March 1st which should provide a roster with names addresses and (maybe) email and phone contact info for everyone in the complex. Also, I suspect a request to the board might result in permission to actually get into each building to slip a flyer/proxy-form under doors instead of having to lurk in the cold to get in.

I think you're right about the (un)likelihood of success for a changing the way votes are done strategy. I've got the big book of condo rules, but I haven't yet checked to see how precisely the policy is spelled out in there and what (if any) policies are in place for modifying the rules themselves.

-- Ry4an