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'Corona voting': A whole new way to handle an election

Sep. 2, 2020

Our world was shaken this spring by something we never saw coming: a global pandemic. COVID-19 took the world by storm and sheltering in place in our homes became our way of life. Businesses locked up, economies shut down, and society almost stood still. Every person, whether infected or not, was touched in some way by COVID-19; it has completely reshaped the way society functions. One of those things that COVID-19 changed was voting. In a typical voting year, voters stand shoulder to shoulder in line, possibly for hours, as they wait to cast their vote. Then, they handle ballots and touch screens to make their selections. Clearly a potential toxic stew of community transmission of the coronavirus, things had to change. Voting has been a relatively consistent and standard process for the last several decades, so, under the rule of a global pandemic, election officials and policymakers scrambled to find new ways to mitigate the threat of COVID-19. For many, this meant reviewing their state’s continuity of government constitutional provisions, continuity of legislatures during emergencies plans, election emergency statutes and election contingency plans at the state and local levels. Officials and policymakers had to address both the practical and legal issues around facilitating elections, while also decreasing the potential for spreading the virus. The two most popular strategies enacted to mitigate risk of COVID-19 while voting were postponing the date of an election, as well as extending the ability to vote absentee (by mail) to all voters, sometimes even requiring it. Source: https://www.ncsl.org/research/elections-and-campaigns/state-action-on-covid-19-and-elections.aspx   Two Ways the Coronavirus Could Permanently Change American Politics The coronavirus has changed the way American society did many things, including the way we vote and hold elections. Here are two ways the coronavirus could change American politics, potentially permanently: #1: Mail-in Voting Many are hesitant to wait in long lines, shoulder to shoulder, to cast their ballots. A poll released at the end of April found almost 40% of adults supported holding elections exclusively by mail, double the amount from 2018, and 56% of people stated everyone should be allowed to vote by mail without having to apply and provide a specific reason. Each state has its own guidelines regarding mail-in voting in the upcoming general election. Some mail absentee applications to all registered voters. Some — like Indiana — mail applications to those who request them. Mail-in voting remains a topic of ongoing discussion within every state and at the national level. #2: Political Campaigning With going door-to-door and holding fundraisers and mass rallies out of the question, politicians have had to adapt the way they campaign for office. Many have turned to virtual campaigns, holding video conferences with constituents and livestreaming speeches. Perhaps the shift to virtual campaigning will become the norm in future election cycles. Source: https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/495761-five-ways-the-coronavirus-could-change-american-politics

Get Out to Vote in the 2020 General Election

Jul. 31, 2020

Who can vote? To vote in the 2020 general election, you must:

  • Be both a U.S. citizen and a resident of Indiana
  • Be at least 18 years of age on or before the general election
  • Not currently be in prison after being convicted of a crime
  • Have lived in the precinct where you vote for at least 30 days prior to the election
  • Be registered to vote
If all of these things apply to you, great! You can vote in the 2020 general election. How to vote. There are two ways to vote in the general election: by absentee ballot or in-person on Election Day.
  • To register for an absentee ballot, you must qualify under one of the 11 reasons listed on the Indiana Secretary of State’s website. To see if you qualify and to request an absentee ballot, visit https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/2402.htm.
  • If you plan to vote in-person on Election Day but are not sure where to go, visit https://indianavoters.in.gov/ and click on “Find My Polling Location.” You will be able to search by both voter registration (your name and birthday) as well as by county.
By casting your vote Nov. 3, you can be assured your voice is heard on the local and national levels. As you evaluate the candidates and determine who to support, remember elected officials play a very important role in ensuring your electric cooperative can continue providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Support Indiana’s electric cooperatives by getting out to vote and backing candidates who support positive energy policies, and assist Indiana’s electric cooperatives’ efforts to power the businesses and communities they serve. Sources: https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/2402.htm, https://indianavoters.in.gov/   Four Essential Reasons to Vote While it can sometimes feel like your vote doesn’t matter, it does. Voting is absolutely essential to a healthy, functioning democracy. Not convinced? Here are four essential reasons to vote.
  1. Voting is the best way to speak up on the issues that concern you. It allows you to hold elected officials accountable and to replace them when they no longer represent your best interests.
  2. Voting allows you to be part of decision making that affects your life. Every day, legislators and elected officials make decisions that impact every aspect of your life. Don’t you want a say in who will be representing your interests at the local, state and national level?
  3. If you don’t vote, others will make the decisions for you.This goes hand in hand with reason number 2. If you don’t make decisions about things that impact your life, other people will.
  4. Decisions are made on your behalf every day. These decisions impact things like utilities, energy, broadband, health care, education, housing, etc.
It is important to vote for who you trust to make these decisions for you. Getting out to vote ensures that your voice is heard. Your opinion matters! Source: https://www.vote.ie/why/   Five Things To Do Before Heading to the Polls Voting is a right and a privilege for American citizens. What should you know before you head out to the polls on Election Day? Here are five things experts say you can do to help ensure a smooth experience.
  1. Check your registration. Visit https://indianavoters.in.gov/ and click on “check the status of your voting registration.”
  2. Prepare to vote. Visit https://indianavoters.in.gov/ and click on “who’s on the ballot” to learn which races you will be able to vote in on Election Day. You can also get to know the candidates who are running.
  3. Know your options. To see if you qualify for, and to request, an absentee ballot, visit https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/2402.htm
  4. Watch them test the machines. Election officials have to test all the equipment in advance to make sure everything is ready to go before Election Day. Most jurisdictions allow the public to observe this. Some even livestream the testing so you can watch at home.
  5. Sign up to be a poll worker or poll monitor. Visit in.gov/sos/elections/2674.htm to find out how to sign up.
Sources: https://indianavoters.in.gov/, https://www.in.gov/sos/elections/2402.htm, www.in.gov/sos/elections/2674.htm, https://www.npr.org/2016/10/14/497805960/voting-5-things-to-do-before-heading-to-the-polls

Reminder: Register to Vote for the 2020 General Election

Jun. 26, 2020

Make sure you register to vote in time for the 2020 general election! Did you know you must register to vote at least 29 days before an election? That means you need to register by Oct. 5 to vote in the general election Nov. 3. If you still need to register to vote or update your address, or would like to check your registration status, visit indianavoters.in.gov and follow the links on the screen. This site can also help you find your polling location, review the ballot and get to know the candidates, and obtain absentee ballot information and other resources. Over 4.5 million Hoosiers have registered to vote. Make sure to join that list. Registering to vote is the first step in assuring your voice is heard on the local and national levels. As you evaluate the candidates and determine who to support, remember elected officials play a very important role in ensuring your electric cooperative can continue providing safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Elected officials from the local level to the state, all the way up to Indiana’s Congressional delegation and even the president, have an impact on your local electric cooperative. You can help your local electric cooperative by backing candidates who support positive energy policies and assist the efforts of Indiana’s electric cooperatives to power the businesses and communities they serve. Let’s continue supporting candidates who support Indiana’s electric cooperatives as they are key partners in helping rural Indiana grow and thrive.   Supporting Democracy: Volunteer to Work the Polls Registering to vote and participating in an election are fundamental rights and privileges of living in a democracy. By registering to vote in the Nov. 3 general election, you are engaging in the heart of democracy and exercising your constitutional rights. Want to take it one step further? To further support your community, your country, and democracy itself, you can volunteer to work the polls on Election Day. To work the polls you must be a registered voter and a resident of the county in which you wish to work, and you must be at least 18 years old. Poll workers can earn up to $150 for their service, depending on the county. Our democracy depends upon individuals like you taking the initiative and responsibility to uphold our freedoms. If you would like to serve your community as a poll worker, contact your county election administrator or local party representative. Visit www.in.gov/sos/elections/2674.htm to find out how to sign up.   Are Virtual Elections the Future? Public health and safety are at the forefront of people’s minds, and the pandemic has many rethinking what it means to vote safely. Some are calling for increased virtual voting options. Twenty-three U.S. states and the District of Columbia already allow some voters to return absentee ballots via email, and five other states let some voters to do so using a web portal. Many argue that instead of debating whether online voting should exist, we should explore the most secure way to facilitate electronic voting. Electronic voting would not only protect public health and safety during a pandemic but would also expand access to those serving in the military abroad as well as those with disabilities. As we focus on safety and voting integrity, electronic virtual voting options are likely in the future of America’s democracy.

Are you ready to vote June 2?

Feb. 3, 2020

It’s that time again: after months of candidacy announcements and campaigning, Hoosiers will head to the polls to cast their votes in the

2020 Indiana primary election, which has been rescheduled for June 2. The choices made in the primary will determine which candidates will represent their party on the ballot in November, from state representative all the way up to the president. As you assess candidates to earn your support, remember elected officials play a significant role in ensuring your electric cooperative can continue to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity. Indiana’s electric cooperatives serve communities across the state that are represented by more than 100 legislators in the Indiana General Assembly, as well as all nine members of Indiana’s Congressional delegation. For that reason, it’s important to have an understanding about where the candidates stand on key issues. The opportunities and obstacles faced by electric cooperatives and their consumer-owners are important to consider as you determine which candidate is best positioned to help your electric cooperative – and the communities it serves – grow and thrive. A critically important and ongoing policy issue faced by cooperatives across the state is the delivery of high-speed internet access to all Hoosiers, regardless of where they live. Indiana’s electric cooperatives have taken a lead role in resolving the barriers to delivering high-speed internet access to the communities they serve, either as new retail providers or in partnership with other organizations working to narrow the digital divide. These projects would not be feasible without the support of elected officials at both the Indiana Statehouse and in Congress. Over the past three years, both the Indiana General Assembly and Indiana’s Congressional delegation have removed bureaucratic hurdles to encourage broadband technology investments and created grant programs to help offset the costs of deploying a fiber infrastructure. You can help by supporting candidates who support rural broadband access expansion. Another important policy issue is understanding the role Indiana’s electric cooperatives will play in the state’s next generation of utility policies. As new technologies, including electric vehicles, change the way Hoosiers need and consume electricity, Indiana’s electric cooperatives will play a vital role in ensuring consumer-owners, their businesses and the communities they serve continue to have access to safe, reliable and affordable electricity to power Indiana’s changing economy. By supporting candidates who embrace the challenges and opportunities of modern energy policies, your cooperative can continue to help the communities it serves grow and thrive. Want to vote absentee?  With the rescheduled primary, the Indiana Election Committee is extending to all Hoosiers the option to vote by absentee ballot. Visit IndianaVoters.in.gov to request an absentee ballot. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is May 21. Not yet registered to vote? In Indiana, voter registration for the June 2 primary closes Monday, May 4, 2020. Visit IndianaVoters.in.gov to register to vote or make sure your current voter registration is up to date. You can also find your nearest polling site and early voting locations, as well as learn who is on your ballot. To learn more about the issues cooperative consumer-owners can address at the ballot box and how to participate in this year’s primary elections, visit action.indianaec.org.   180 Seconds to Cast Your Vote When Hoosiers head to the polls May 5 to cast their ballot in this year’s primary election, most will have already made up their minds about who they want to support. But there are almost always circumstances – say, voting to retain certain judges, or selecting at-large candidates – that can give Hoosiers pause in the voting booth. Hopefully not too much pause, though – otherwise, they might be breaking the law. Under Indiana election law, Hoosier voters can only remain in their voting booth for three minutes during a primary election, and only two minutes in a general election. The law also instructs election board members to remove any voter who refuses to leave if their time expires. Fortunately, cooler heads have prevailed in the enforcement of said law. In a 2016 BBC interview, Indiana election official Angela Nussmeyer said election precinct boards don’t enforce the law, giving voters sufficient time to make their choices. That said, if your polling site is taking too long, you may have a legal basis to try to speed things up! Source: Ind. Code 3-11-14-26 through 28 Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-37851764

Support Your Local Cooperative: Register to Vote

Feb. 3, 2020

Electric cooperative consumer-owners are no strangers to the democratic process. In fact, civic participation is baked into the cooperative experience because the consumer-owners of the cooperative directly elect its leadership every year at the annual meeting.

But this spring is different because the power of consumer-owner voter participation extends beyond their local cooperatives. Not only do Hoosiers get to decide who will lead the state by selecting gubernatorial candidates, they get to help determine what direction the country will move by selecting presidential candidates. (Not to mention the opportunity to select state and federal legislators to deliberate and advance the policy goals that help our cooperatives support the communities they serve.) And as recent elections have shown, the choices made by an engaged, voting consumer-owner can shape the outcomes of elections up and down the ballot. The first step to making sure your voice is heard is making sure you have the opportunity to use it. In Indiana, voter registration for the June 2 primary closes Monday, May 4, 2020. Visit IndianaVoters.in.gov to register to vote or make sure your current voter registration is up to date. You can also find your nearest polling site and early voting locations, as well as learn who is on your ballot. All this planning is important to ensure Hoosier electric cooperative consumer-owners have the opportunity to make their voices heard. In the 2018 primary elections, only 20% of registered voters in Indiana cast their ballots. In cooperative communities across the state, voter turnout dipped as low as 10% of registered voters in that area. Co-ops succeed when the communities they serve are engaged in the civic process, and this upcoming election will be no different. The May 2020 primary will be a critically important election; Hoosiers will select one of the two major party presidential candidates, as well as decide from those candidates seeking to fill two of Indiana’s nine Congressional open seats. State legislators who support Indiana’s electric cooperatives will face their first steps toward continuing their public service. And, by registering to vote and exercising their civic responsibility to make their voices heard, electric cooperative consumer-owners from across Indiana can emphasize the importance of supporting the policies and initiatives that not only allow co-ops to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy, but create the opportunities for the communities cooperatives serve to grow and thrive. To learn more about the issues co-op consumer-owners can address at the ballot box and how to register to vote, visit action.IndianaEC.org.   Tuesday Voting: A Rural-Rooted Practice? On June 2, 2020, thousands of Hoosiers across the state will head to their polling sites to cast the first votes in the 2020 election cycle. For some voters, it will be their first opportunity to vote; for others, it joins a long list of other votes cast in their lives. The one constant: the vote always happens on a Tuesday. Why Tuesday? The answer rests on a rationale to which many electric cooperative consumer-owners can relate. In the early days of the country’s history, votes could only be cast in a county seat (or capitol) and the journey could take a day or more. Travel was discouraged for those observing Sunday as a day of rest, so most voters — particularly those coming from rural areas — preferred either Tuesday or Wednesday. Because many farmers took their wares to market on Wednesday, that left Tuesday as the most viable day to vote. Times have changed, and many Americans would like to see voting become a national holiday, or at least fall on a weekend. But as we get ready for the primary and registered to vote, remember America’s voting history has been shaped with rural communities in mind. Source: https://whytuesday.org/about

Indiana’s electric cooperatives applaud Gov. Holcomb’s commitment to expanding rural broadband

Sep. 4, 2018

Indiana’s electric cooperatives applaud today’s announcement at South Central Indiana REMC by Gov. Eric Holcomb that he has allocated $100 million toward rural broadband expansion as part of his Next Level Connections infrastructure plan.

$12 billion in benefit if Indiana closes rural digital divide

Aug. 28, 2018

A study released Monday by the Purdue Center for Regional Development estimates Indiana could gain nearly $12 billion in economic benefits if broadband were deployed in the rural areas of the state. The report, commissioned by Indiana Electric Cooperatives and Tipmont REMC and funded by CoBank, further estimates a return of nearly $4 to the local economy for every dollar spent on the necessary infrastructure.