What Is Cumulative Voting?

Cumulative voting is a voting method often used in board elections of California homeowner associations. With cumulative voting, each member of the HOA may cast all of their votes for one candidate or they may distribute their votes among the candidates. For example, if there are 2 seats up for election, a homeowner may cast both of their votes for a single candidate, or they may cast 1 vote each for two different candidates. Cumulative voting is contrasted with conventional voting, where a homeowner may cast a maximum of 1 vote per candidate.

Why does cumulative voting exist?

Cumulative voting is favored by declarants, who are the original developers of the HOA. Cumulative voting allows the declarant (or other entities who own multiple units) to concentrate their voting power on a small number of candidates to increase the chances of those candidates being elected. Once the declarant no longer owns units in the HOA, the purpose for cumulative voting goes away, so the HOA should consider amending its bylaws to eliminate cumulative voting. Cumulative voting needlessly complicates the voting instructions so is disfavored by inspectors of elections.

How do I know if my HOA uses cumulative voting?

Cumulative voting is applicable when specified in the association’s governing documents—typically in the association’s bylaws. When cumulative voting is allowed, the bylaws will contain a paragraph similar to the following: “All members shall be entitled to cumulate their votes for one or more candidates for the Board, if the candidate’s name has been placed in nomination prior to voting. Under cumulative voting, each owner may give a single candidate the number of votes equal to the number of directors to be elected, or the owner may distribute these cumulated votes among any two or more candidates as the owner desires.”

Not all homeowner associations use cumulative voting, so you should review your bylaws to find out. It is always important for members of a homeowner association to review their governing documents to understand which voting method is being used. Voting instructions will also be included on the ballot.

It is important to note that even if cumulative voting is allowed by the association’s governing documents, cumulative voting may not be applied to write-in candidates. This is due to Corporations Code Section 7615(b), which provides in relevant part, “No member shall be entitled to cumulate votes for a candidate or candidates unless the candidate’s name or candidates’ names have been placed in nomination prior to the voting.” By definition, a write-in candidate’s name has not been placed in nomination prior to the start of voting, so cumulative voting cannot be used for write-in candidates.

Please contact our HOA inspectors of elections if you have any questions.