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MAY COMMENTARY
by Stephen Freese


Co-ops Vote


Over the past several months, millions of Americans have trekked to town halls, schools, and community centers to cast votes in presidential, congressional, and local races. In Wisconsin we had the second highest voter turnout in the country for the presidential primary, with 47 percent of eligible voters participating. 

Before the nominating process is over, millions more of our fellow citizens will also vote in their respective states. The enthusiasm with which citizens are participating in this election year is encouraging, and foreshadows a robust debate as we head into the fall election. 

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. To ensure that all electric co-op members take part in the decision this election year, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) has launched the Co-ops Vote initiative. This non-partisan program has three goals: to increase rural voter registrations and turnout, educate co-op members on key issues, and elevate the influence of rural Americans in the outcome of this election. The Wisconsin Electric Cooperative Association (WECA) will be participating in the Co-ops Vote program and will be asking each of our member cooperatives to do the same. 

We will encourage members to take the pledge to make electric co-op issues a priority this November. By doing so, we can send a resounding message that candidates will need to put our concerns front and center in order to earn our vote. With more than 250,000 co-op members speaking out with one voice, we are already having a major impact in making our top issues part of the Wisconsin conversation. Just image what major impact we will have in the national conversation with 42 million electric co-op members speaking out. 

As you know, electric co-ops are not-for-profit energy providers that are owned by you, the members served. Electric co-ops provide coverage for 75 percent of our nation’s landmass. In Wisconsin, they are a foundation in the communities they serve and their members are making their voices heard this election on issues that matter most to them, such as affordable electricity, broadband internet access, and job security for veterans. 

Most of us have never known what life was like without electricity. During the Great Depression, when power lines first electrified rural America, a farmer in Tennessee rose in church one Sunday and said, “The greatest thing on earth is to have the love of God in your heart, and the next greatest thing is to have electricity in your house.” During the Great Recession we just experienced, we never lost our affordable, reliable electricity that we have all come to take for granted. By participating in our national election, we can make sure we never will. 

I encourage everyone, regardless of their political beliefs, to join America’s electric co-ops in this national effort. Let’s stand up for the priorities of the rural electric co-op community in the lead-up to November 8. Join us, and learn more at www.vote.coop.

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