Condo board vote questioned
Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Christy McKerney 
Posted October 26, 2002

SUNRISE -- In Florida, even a simple condo board election can't be taken for granted these days.

Take Sunrise Lakes Phase IV, Inc. II, a peaceful enclave of 876 units where retirees are supposed to spend their golden years perfecting their golf and mah-jongg.

Instead, some seniors here are hurling allegations of vote tampering in an election that's pitted neighbor against neighbor, grandpa against grandma.

The problem, as always in Florida, is the ballot. 

The condo board is using ballots on simple sheets of paper containing the names of 24 candidates, vying for 15 seats to be decided Monday.

But some board members have been going door to door, passing out actual ballots that are already filled in, prompting other residents to file a complaint with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation's condominium division.

"What they're doing is illegal," said Seymour Golub, 82, one of five people who signed the Oct. 18 complaint and hoped state regulators would step in on Monday, when the votes are counted. 

Condo association president David Deutsch says the fuss is sour grapes from candidates whose names were not marked off.

"There's nothing wrong with what we're doing. It's perfectly legal," said Deutsch, who said he checked with lawyers beforehand to make sure everything was legal.

Deutsch said the marked ballots were only suggestions and that people could and did cross out names they didn't want to vote for.

"I handed some of them [out] and said these are the people I recommend you vote for," Deutsch said.

But real estate broker and Sunrise Lakes resident Stuart Miller, who drafted the formal complaint, disagrees. 

Miller contends the practice violates state condo law that requires "all ballot forms must be uniform in color and appearance" and stating secrecy in voting must be assured.

"He's considering it campaigning, but I don't think campaigning you actually do with the real ballots. That's the real issue," said Miller, responding to Deutsch's explanation.

"We sent around suggestions in the form of literature. They went around, telling people sign the ballots now. Here's who you're voting for," Miller said.

Regulation department spokeswoman Meg Shannon said she could not comment on whether the department is conducting an investigation until after one is completed.

"I guess I have no choice but to have confidence that the state is going to do the right thing, whether it's at the election or three months later," Miller said.