Among the earliest editions of statewide news for Wisconsin electric cooperative members is an editorial in the October 15, 1946 edition which reads, “Wisconsin REA News, its very existence dedicated to the welfare of agriculture and the processes of government which can assure for agriculture a more abundant life, has consistently held that the greatest weapon in the hands of the farmer today against the forces that deprive him of that just and equitable share of democracy, is his ballot on election day…”
Since inception, electric cooperatives have emphasized to members the importance of voting as their civic duty. Currently, electric co-ops utilize a program called Co-op’s Vote! The goal? Encourage members to vote, but never tell them how to vote. Wisconsin’s spring election on April 7 is just around the corner, and it is significant for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it is an opportunity for the people of Wisconsin to chose their nominee for president.
According to the Wisconsin Election Commission, 12 Democrats and one Republican are on the April presidential primary ballot. Wisconsin is one of three states that are expected to determine the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. As Wisconsinites, we need to take this seriously, as all one needs to do is notice the shift between the last two presidential elections. Twenty-two counties that supported the election of Barack Obama in 2012 switched and supported the election of Donald Trump in 2016; of those 22 counties, 19 are served by electric cooperatives.
With this year’s November election, I suspect those counties will become the epicenter of the presidential election. The attention paid to Wisconsin and these rural communities will be an experience we have never seen before in our state. Remember, it all starts with our primary, so buckle up and be ready for the political ride of your life.
April 7 also brings the opportunity to select the next member of the Wisconsin Supreme Court, along with mayors, town board members, county board members, school board members, and other local elected officials. It is our opportunity to choose the people who will run our local government and, in many cases, have as big of an impact on our lives as the president will.
The goal behind Co-ops Vote! is to raise the percentage of votes cast in rural parts of the country, and it has been very successful. Most rural communities across the country are losing population, so it is more important than ever that we turn out to vote in larger numbers, so we still have influence on what happens to our state and country.
Springtime is also the time when the majority of Wisconsin electric cooperatives hold their annual meetings. This is an opportunity for you to have a democratic say in the leadership of your cooperative, to hear updates on co-op activities, and to put your fingerprints on the future of your electric cooperative. Take the time to be informed about the upcoming annual meeting and look at the material they will provide you in advance of the meeting. These materials will often include the financials of the cooperative and candidate profiles for the individuals who are running for your board of directors. It’s important to understand where all the candidates stand on issues so you can make an informed decision on who you will support.
As that 1946 editorial read, “…His ballot is his power—the power of himself and his neighbors to place men and women in office who have the courage and convictions to vote the welfare of agriculture against all the odds of greed and graft.”
An informed electorate will serve your electric cooperative, local, state, and national government well. Get informed, be prepared, and don’t stand on the sidelines of history. Vote!