When was the last time you voted? As member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. By holding membership meetings, it’s how we maintain electric utilities that are responsive to your needs. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer opportunities to exercise a civic responsibility — to select the best leaders for our communities.
Yet in places all over America, even those served by electric cooperatives, citizens aren’t exercising that right.
In the 2012 national elections, voter turnout dropped overall, but the decline in rural counties was 18 percent — twice that of the nation as a whole.
And when voters miss the chance to vote, they also lose the opportunity to communicate their concerns to our leaders about the issues that matter to us where we work, live and raise families.
Reliable electricity, access to rural broadband and the quality of our healthcare system are just a few issues we all care about. Still, they only become priorities if enough people show elected officials that their constituents are paying attention. Registering to vote and voting are the most effective ways to send this message.
When we go to the polls with the cooperative principle of “Concern for Community” in mind, we instantly improve our political system. It’s a system designed to produce a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”
I’d like you to join me in a new initiative to get every eligible person registered to vote — you, me and our families and friends — and take the pledge to become a Co-op Voter!
Tennessee’s electric cooperatives are launching a campaign to help get out the vote and ensure that issues important to co-ops are included in the public discussion. Co-ops Vote is a nonpartisan initiative to boost voter turnout in areas served by cooperatives across the country so our voices are heard loud and clear every day — and especially on Election Day.
Here’s how you can help: Visit vote.coop and take the pledge to become a Co-op Voter to support your community and electric cooperative when casting your vote in 2016. The website will give you information on your elected officials and candidates, the voter registration process, election dates and locations and background about eight key co-op issues we want our elected leaders to understand: rural broadband access, hiring and honoring veterans, low-income energy assistance, cybersecurity, water regulation, rural healthcare access, affordable and reliable energy and renewable energy.
If you’re not registered to vote, it’s urgent that you do so by Tuesday, July 5, to be able to vote in primaries and many local elections. It’s easy to do and only takes a few minutes. You can access links to register to vote online at vote.coop.
It’s critically important that we increase rural voter participation in national, state and local elections. Please let your rural voice be heard!
Flickr image by Personalincome.org.