On 5 May 2020, the government released temporary modifications to the Corporations Act, outlining that all voting at online AGMs should be conducted by a poll rather than a show of hands.
The determination seems to also suggest that deciding resolutions with votes received as at proxy close is not a recommended approach. For example, how are the open votes given to a third-party proxy to be voted, if they haven't been given a chance to cast their votes?
Deciding resolution results with final proxy positions presents the potential risk of not proving an accurate resolution result. In addition, it could disenfranchise shareholders who normally attend meetings to hear the discussion/debate on the resolutions before deciding on how to vote.
While there are many options available to companies when it comes to conducting voting during online meetings, the single most important aspect to consider is security.
Offering live voting is an excellent way to ensure your votes are secure. By opening voting lines at the beginning of the meeting, you give your shareholders adequate time to submit their votes and potentially change their vote throughout the course of the meeting.
Companies should consult their constitution and legal advisers to make sure the option they choose is the right one for their company.
It is advisable for the Chairman to pause when asking for questions and before closing the poll, as some users might be experiencing lag due to their own IT set-up. The pause will enable shareholders to write out a question or to cast their vote prior to the poll closing.
Alternatively, the Chairman may open voting for all resolutions at the beginning of the meeting to allow sufficient time for shareholders to cast their vote.