Written by: Tony Anderson
For decades, Cherryland Electric Cooperative members had to show up at the Annual Meeting to cast a vote in a board election. About one decade ago, members began to receive their annual ballot wrapped around the May issue of Michigan Country Lines magazine.
Over the last decade, we have watched member votes climb from 500 a year to over 1,800 at the peak of mail-in balloting. With 35,000 members, an increase of 360 percent in voting members is still not good enough. So, in an effort to get more people involved in their cooperative, online voting will be available to everyone for the first time in 2017.
Your board and the Election and Credentials Member Committee have both approved the use of Survey and Ballot Systems (SBS). SBS has been working with electric cooperative elections since 1990. They employ third party audits, use best in-class security practices and have industry-leading encryption and authentication measures.
The 2017 election will be a “hybrid” election. This means that members will still get a paper ballot wrapped around the May issue of Country Lines, as well as the new online option and the ability to vote in person at the Annual Meeting. The first vote received will be the one that counts. Online and mail-in ballots will be accepted from May 1 to June 14.
SBS will tabulate all the ballots, both paper and online. One member of the Election and Credentials Committee, a Cherryland member, will serve as a liaison to SBS and the third-party auditor.
Members will be able to access the online voting portal through SmartHub or a website by using a unique ballot ID and an election passcode.
For probably too long, we have gotten this complaint after a member tossed out their magazine and ballot: “What do you mean I can’t get another ballot?” We have been steadfast in “one member, one ballot” in an attempt to keep things simple and hold people accountable.
Now, members will have a 45-day window to vote without having to retain the paper ballot. We are hopeful that this will increase voter turnout, appeal to younger voters and eliminate complaints from busy members who have long desired another voting option.
The cost of online voting has been the biggest hurdle to its implementation. It will add several thousand dollars to our operating expenses. In the long run, we hope to lower costs in a few years if we feel like paper ballots can be eliminated or at least reduced to individual “as needed” requests.
I encourage everyone to take the time to review the candidate information in this issue and online. After that, please vote. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, “Cherryland is not a cooperative of the majority. We are a cooperative of the majority who choose to participate.” In the 78-year history of this cooperative, it has never been easier to cast your vote and make your voice heard.
Keep an eye out for your May issue of Michigan Country Lines! Included will be online voting instructions (with your unique ballot I.D. and election passcode), candidate information, and a paper ballot. We will also be sending a follow-up email with instructions for all your voting options.
Written by: Cherryland
Co-op Energy Talk
Is Northern Michigan poised to see a boom in solar energy? We sat down with several local experts to find out their opinions. Listen in as Crystal Mountain’s Jim MacInnes, Groundwork’s Dan Worth, and Wolverine Power Cooperative’s Zach Anderson discuss and debate the future of solar energy in our region.
Written by: Cherryland
Born in the winter of 1929 at our home on Elder Road in Alden, Mich., I was the ninth child in a family of 12. When World War II ended, life started to become normal again. My dad was back home from Detroit where he had worked during the war to earn money for a new barn—as ours had blown down from high winds in 1940.
Having no barn meant my dad had to rent a barn a half-mile away on Helena Road for our livestock. It was up to my mother, brother and me to tend to our livestock while dad worked in Detroit. Mother would get my brother up at 4:30 a.m. every day to go milk the cows before going to school in Elk Rapids. We were transported to school by bus at that time. It was my job to let the cattle and horses out of the barn at noon to go down to the cistern, and break the ice (during winters), so they could have a drink of water. I was in the seventh and eighth grades during that time at Alden Elementary School.
In 1946, after dad returned home, he was able to build a new barn with steel stanchions and automatic milkers. He also was able to repair the well that had quit working when I was quite small. I remember we had to carry our drinking water for years from our neighbor’s property. We hauled water from the creek, and my mother would heat it in a copper boiler for washing clothes. She washed our clothes by hand on a wash board until she finally had a gasoline washer for all of us.
In 1947, I was a senior at Elk Rapids School, and the first day returning home from school after the Christmas holiday I received the best surprise—a fully lighted house! Mom and dad would now have life a little easier. Electricity was God’s blessing to my parents! They deserved it!
I would never trade those first 17 years of growing up with hard work and a loving family. Electricity sure made life much easier, for which we were all thankful. Not having electricity for the first part of my life made me appreciate it as a real commodity. Today, I’m thankful for all the people that work hard to keep our lights on.
Erma Barber Deater, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member for more than 50 years