By Debbie Miles
It has often been said that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. It is easy to take our right to vote for granted, maybe because there are so many opportunities to exercise that right. There are national, state an local elections for political offices. Then, there are elections for social or other civic organizations. If you own stock, you are asked to vote in those elections. So it is understandable to see how “election fatigue” can take hold.
As we head into the final stage of what has been a divisive national election, it is a good time to remember that elections don’t have to be about name calling and bitterness. Co-ops can and do play a role in cultivating a civil society where people can practice democracy at the hyper-local level. As a member of the Ontonagon Rural Electrification Association, you have the right to run for the board of directors. Even if you choose not to have that level of participation, you should feel empowered to reach out to current board members and candidates.
The beauty of belonging to a co-op is every member has a voice, but you must use that voice if you want to be heard on the issues that matter to you. In their document, “A Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade,” the International Cooperative Alliance, a global organization made up of co-ops from more than 100 countries, identified member participation as one of the five key ingredients for a co-op to be successful.
Voting and being actively involved in the affairs of the co-op are key ways in which members can participate. Take the time to get to know the candidates running for the Ontonagon REA Board. Seek out ways that you can help spread the word about the good work your co-op is doing.
The cooperative business model is a great one; it fosters engagement and creates strong communities. More than 100 years ago, President Theodore Roosevelt recognized this value when he said, “The Cooperative is the best plan of organization. Under this plan, every business is governed by a board; every person has one vote and only one vote. Everyone gets profits based on their use of the co-op. It develops individual responsibility and has a moral as well as a financial value.”
Those words are truer today than ever before. Let your voice be heard, and take the time to participate in all the elections.