It’s election season for Minnesota’s electric co-ops, and member-owners across the state are casting votes. They are making their voices heard on the future of their utility and its energy system. During a global pandemic and corresponding economic crisis, electric co-op elections carry a new significance.

Essential workers and services are finally getting the recognition they deserve. These people keep the trash picked up, the shelves stocked, and the lights on. They are the foundation of a safe and healthy community. Our electric cooperatives provide utility services essential to modern life. Now more than ever, people realize that the institutions they rely on day to day need forward-thinking leaders. Co-op member-owners are paying closer attention to their electric co-op’s management and operation. They are eager to assert their democratic member control.

As electric co-ops navigate future challenges and opportunities, they need to take action to strengthen the energy system and protect cooperative principles and democratic member control. The challenges posed by the coronavirus this year mean that extra attention needs to be given to the latter.

Some co-ops are taking the necessary steps to hold their elections by mail or online, forgoing an annual meeting. These electric co-ops serve as a democratic model for other co-ops, the state, and the nation. Unfortunately, many other co-ops have canceled or postponed elections and annual meetings, not allowing members to vote and have their voices heard. If your electric co-op has not yet let you know how elections will proceed this year, call their office or check their website.

You can find a list of electric co-op websites and more information on the Minnesota Rural Electric Association (MREA) website: www.mrea.org.

For information about transparency in Minnesota’s electric co-ops, check out CURE’s report: www.mnlocalenergyproject.org.

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