Co-ops launch non-partisan voter engagement program
Article was added on Friday, February 19, 2016
By Justin LaBerge
America's electric cooperatives have launched a non-partisan,
nationwide effort to promote civic engagement and voter
participation in the communities they serve.
Jeffrey Connor, interim CEO of the National Rural Electric
Cooperative Association, unveiled the Co-ops Vote program at the
association's 74th annual meeting in New Orleans.
"Through Co-ops Vote, we want to help our members know when
elections are, what's at stake and how to make their voices heard,"
Connor said. "Who folks vote for isn't really as important as the
fact that they do vote."
The Co-ops Vote initiative will focus on issues that are
important to the health and prosperity of communities served by
- Hiring and Honoring Veterans
- Low-Income Energy Assistance
- Water Regulation
- Rural Health Care Access
- Affordable and Reliable Energy
- Renewable Energy
"Electric cooperatives are perfectly designed to help address
these important issues," Connor said. "We can make politics 'local'
again because civic engagement is part of our DNA."
A new website, vote.coop,
offers co-op members information on the voter registration process
in their state, dates of elections, information on the candidates
running in those elections, and explanations of the eight key
issues the campaign aims to address.
In keeping with its non-partisan goals, the initiative will not
be endorsing specific candidates for office.
Mel Coleman, president of NRECA and CEO of North Arkansas
Electric Cooperative said the program would help ensure the voices
of rural Americans are heard.
"We want to make sure our government knows that rural America
matters," Coleman said. "This campaign isn't about divisive,
partisan issues. It's about real people in real places facing real
challenges. It's about our co-ops living out the principles of our
movement: Concern for community and democratic control."
Connor cited partisan gridlock in Washington, the explosive
growth of money in politics and the effects of gerrymandering as
important reasons for launching the program. In 2014, 318 of 435
House races had a margin of victory of 20 points or more, and 30
House candidates - 16 Democrats and 14 Republicans representing 11
states - didn't even face an opponent in the general election.
"Elections aren't won and lost in November anymore," Connor
said. "They're really decided in primaries months sooner, when
fewer voters recognize the opportunity to vote, fewer participate
and only a handful of issues are up for debate."
This results in a Congress where more members represent the
extremes of each political party and are less inclined to seek
compromise and bipartisan solutions to problems.
"The electric cooperative movement has always been non-partisan,
and our communities are facing too many challenges to have a
government crippled by bickering," Coleman said. "When our parents
and grandparents set out to electrify rural America, they didn't
have time to ask the person next to them about their views on
economic or social policy. Their economic policy was 'we need to
save this community' and their social policy was 'let's do it
together.' I hope the Co-ops Vote program can help rekindle that
spirit of cooperation."
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