Success Story: Talquin Electric Cooperative, Inc.
About Talquin Electric Cooperative
Formed in 1940 after the Rural Electrification Administration was founded, Talquin Electric Cooperative provides electric, water and wastewater services for thousands of members from Florida’s Gulf Coast to the Georgia state line. It remains a non-profit, democratically controlled and member-owned cooperative.
Talquin had been doing in-person voting at their annual meeting for many years, but had been discussing the possibility of doing mail-in voting. The discussions never materialized into the board taking action as it would have taken a bylaw change to allow mail-in voting.
“If it weren’t for COVID-19, it may not have ever happened,” said Mike Temple, director of administration at Talquin Electric Cooperative. “In 2020 because of COVID, we did a drive-through election. We sent out the ballots and it was a major ordeal; it took 100 employees and a lot of technology and tents. I think partly it was an opportunity for people just to get out of the house and come by and it was an absolutely perfect day. But any number of things could have gone bad if it had been bad weather. The good news is, it went well.”
Approximately 1,400 members drove through and voted in 2020, more than double the prior year’s in-person voting at the annual meeting.
Temple said members loved the drive-through election as did trustees. Talquin did surveys and focus groups and participants overwhelmingly recommended the co-op do something like it for future elections.
SBS Solution & Future Planning
The board decided to propose a change in the bylaws to Talquin’s membership which would allow mail-in voting and also added the provision that the trustees have the ability to choose the voting method each year. Additionally, the board proposed to allow ranked choice voting. Talquin’s membership overwhelmingly voted in support of these bylaw changes.
Talquin Electric Cooperative chose to work with SBS as their preferred third-party election partner because of our experience with ranked choice voting as well as the positive recommendations from other cooperatives they received.
While they have not yet had occasion to utilize the ranked choice voting provision, the co-op worked with the SBS team on their first mail-in election and virtual annual meeting in 2021. The election and annual meeting was an overwhelming success. With the transition to mail-in ballots, Talquin more than tripled voter participation compared to the prior record set in 2020. Mail-in voting also provided a larger representation of members voting in the election from counties outside of where the annual meeting was held. They are confident in the abilities of the SBS team to handle any situation where they will use ranked choice voting in future elections.
“Having (SBS) do everything definitely made it easier on Talquin’s staff,” said Temple. “You have a very professional team. I had no question from the very beginning that things were handled professionally. There’s nothing I would have changed. SBS is efficient and proficient.”