Did you vote in the 2016 elections? If so, you were one of 500,000 MORE voters in rural cooperative communities who went to the polls. You helped turn the tide of decreasing voter turnout in rural areas across the nation, and our elected officials took notice.
We’re already seeing the impact in this year’s Tennessee elections. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen numerous articles with titles such as, “What Do Statewide Candidates Say About Rural Tennessee?” That means you had an impact in 2016 and, more importantly, candidates are going to listen more carefully in future elections.
For member-owned electric cooperatives, voting is already in our DNA. It’s how we maintain an electric utility that’s responsive to the consumers it serves. But voting also plays a crucial part in our representative democracy. Federal, state and local elections offer each of us opportunities to exercise a sacred civic responsibility — to select the best leaders for our communities.
The elections in 2018 are going to be interesting and important, and electric cooperatives once again play a vital role in encouraging rural voter turnout and engaging on issues that matter in our communities.
Our rural areas have to work harder just to keep pace. The challenges facing our communities are difficult — access to quality healthcare and broadband internet service, educational opportunities and economic development. Those are challenges for every community, but they’re even tougher for rural, less-populated areas of the state.
Economic investment has been one of the biggest challenges. Retaining and attracting good-paying jobs lead to additional investments in communities and help grow these rural areas. Across Tennessee, electric cooperatives have long partnered with the state, the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Rural Utilities Service to help recruit new businesses and retain existing companies.
Reliable electricity, rural infrastructure and access to rural broadband are just a few of the issues we all care about. These issues will only become priorities if we continue to express our concerns to our elected officials. Registering to vote and showing up at the polls on Election Day are the most effective ways to send this message.
When we miss the chance to vote, we don’t have the opportunity to communicate our concerns to our leaders about the issues that matter to us — where we work, live and raise families. But 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.”
Our Co-ops Vote initiative is a nonpartisan program that encourages co-op members to let their voices be heard at the ballot box. The campaign will ensure that our voices are heard loud and clear every day — and especially on the next Election Day.
Here’s what you can do to help. Be sure you’re registered to vote right now. Then, encourage your friends and family to register, too. Visit the Co-ops Vote website, www.takeactionTN.com, to get information on how to register and to learn more about your elected officials. You can also learn more about the issues that matter in our communities.
You will join 42 million members across the nation in ensuring that electric co-ops remain a powerful voice on national issues that have a local impact. You can play your part in helping bridge the economic divide.