How Do You Break a Tie in a Vote for a HOA?

Tie votes are actually pretty common, particularly among board elections for small HOAs (the fewer votes there are, the greater the chance of a tie). Ideally, the HOA bylaws or election rules include instructions on what to do in the case of a tie. The instructions may be for a coin toss, a random drawing of lots, or a run-off election. Any method is fine, but the HOA should be aware that there are additional costs and time involved in conducting a run-off election. Our recommendation is for the bylaws or election rules to call for a coin toss or random drawing conducted by the Inspector of Elections.

Unfortunately, the governing documents for many homeowner associations are silent on the subject of tie votes. Under those circumstances, we offer the tied candidates the following options: (1) one of them may decide to withdraw, thus ending the tie; (2) they both may agree for the Inspector of Elections to hold a coin toss, thus ending the tie immediately; or (3) one or more of the candidates may want a run-off election, in which case a run-off election must be held. We make every effort to mail out ballots for the run-off election as quickly as possible (within a week), so the tie vote can be resolved expeditiously, thus allowing the board to move forward with a full complement of board members.

The frequency of tie votes is another good reason why homeowners associations should hire an inspector of elections, such as Pro Elections, to conduct their election process. Tie votes are just one example of the unexpected things that can happen during an election that a professional knows how to handle in a way that complies with the HOA governing documents and applicable regulations to ensure a challenge-free election.

Please note the following: the balloting period for a run-off election must be 30 days long, like any secret ballot election (Civil Code Section 5115). Also, the non-tied candidates may take their seats as board members immediately: the do not need to wait for the resolution of the tie vote.

If your HOA governing documents do not include a provision for what to do in the case of a tie, your board should amend the election rules to include such language. A coin toss or random drawing of lots is the best way to resolve a tie vote because it saves the HOA time and money vs. holding a run-off election.