Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative is an electric co-op based in central Wisconsin that serves 31,500 members across 12 counties and 2,500 square miles. In addition to covering the largest geographic area among Wisconsin co-ops, 40% of their members only live in the area seasonally. This can make matters like annual meeting attendance and communication with members a challenge at times and necessitated some creative solutions.
Before working with Survey & Ballot Systems (SBS), voting was handled internally with voting on-site at the annual meeting or by an absentee mail ballot. If a member was unable to vote onsite at the meeting, they would have to request an absentee ballot be sent to them or pick one up from the office before the election. Participation in these elections had been declining for years, so when Wisconsin’s state statutes were changed to allow online voting for electric cooperatives, Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative worked to revise their bylaws to also allow for this provision.
The main goal for Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative was to increase participation by providing absentee voting options. This was achieved by bringing on SBS to help manage online absentee ballots through the integration of DirectVote® and SmartHub® for the first time. This was a natural fit with a quarter of the members already receiving bills electronically and making payments within SmartHub®. With this, members were “done voting and on their way in less than five minutes”, according to Mindy Kerska, Manager of Member Services at Adams-Columbia Electric Cooperative.
The benefits were immediately noticeable. In their first election with SBS, “we had four times as many ballots cast than we had in any recent election”. Over half of all ballots cast were online, which showed that members viewed the option as intuitive and easy to use. Even better – 36% of all electronic ballots came from seasonal members, a group that previously had a much more difficult time casting their votes in elections. In a cooperative that values a fair election process above everything, making voting more accessible to all members was a great success.