You may not be one of the 42 million Americans who receive electricity from an electric cooperative, but Kentucky’s co-ops want you to know about a campaign led by co-ops to get out the vote in November.
“Co-ops Vote” is a national program of America’s electric cooperatives to boost turnout in rural areas.
Here’s why we got involved, and you should, too.
Kentucky’s electric cooperatives provide safe, affordable and reliable electricity to 1.5 million consumer-members in 117 of Kentucky’s 120 counties. That’s about 35 percent of the state’s population. As not-for-profit businesses owned by the members we serve, we have deep ties in our communities, which are predominantly rural.
That’s why we’re so troubled by this voter statistic: In the 2012 elections, voter turnout in rural America dropped by 18 percent, twice the voter drop-off seen nationally.
One year ago in Kentucky's 2015 statewide election, voter turnout was only 30.6 percent. Sixty-six of Kentucky's 120 counties failed to reach 30 percent voter turnout, mostly in rural areas. In fact, three rural Kentucky counties failed to reach even 20 percent voter turnout.
But voter participation isn’t just an issue in rural America. Of the roughly 219 million citizens eligible to vote in the 2012 presidential election, only 126 million — 57.5 percent — went to the polls. According to the Bipartisan Policy Center, the turnout percentage of eligible voters was down from 2008 in every state except two, Iowa and Louisiana.
In April, the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives launched Kentucky’s “Co-ops Vote” campaign, partnering with our young adult leaders who are able to vote for the first time, and the voter registration efforts of Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.
“As a commonwealth, we have work to do to increase voter turnout in all of our elections, especially in rural Kentucky where turnout is below the state average in almost every cycle,” Grimes said. “I appreciate our electric cooperatives working hard to urge citizens in rural areas to vote in this important election year. I am excited to be a partner in their efforts as we continue to work to get more Kentuckians to the polls.”
The good news is that everyone, not just rural Americans and co-op members, can participate in “Co-ops Vote” and take advantage of its voter resources. Just visit www.vote.coop and take the pledge to vote in this year’s elections. Once you’ve registered, you’ll have access to information on registering to vote, where to vote, and background on all the candidates.
Whether or not you decide to join this campaign, we hope you’ll join us at the polls on November 8. Everyone should have a say in selecting the candidates whom they feel will best serve their community. Every vote counts, now more than ever.
Chris Perry is president of the Kentucky Association of Electric Cooperatives.