Platte-Clay Electric Cooperative (PCEC) in Kearney, Missouri, canceled its in-person 2020 business meeting but still needed a way for members to vote on bylaw changes and director elections.
“We’re led by the consumer-members we serve, so it was important for us to find a way to allow for democratic participation in the cooperative despite the challenges posed by COVID-19,” says Dave Deihl, CEO and general manager of PCEC. “The future of our co-op is shaped by the needs of our members, and we’re grateful for their active participation in our governance process.”
Voting participation jumped 184% in 2020 over the previous year and beat all records for the number of votes cast in any of the 15 previous PCEC elections.
“They made the process very easy to implement and were easy to work with on customizing the process to meet our needs,” says PCEC Communications and Marketing Manager Jennifer Grossl.
PCEC joins a growing list of utilities using Pioneer Votes to ensure every member has a voice. Osage Valley Electric Cooperative in Butler, Missouri, also used Pioneer’s voting portal. Participation nearly doubled as a result.
“When we made the decision to convert our annual meeting to an online voting portal, we were concerned about how our members would react to this change,” says OVEC Member Services Director Jana Rosier. “The election went very smooth. Many members that had not attended annual meetings in the past expressed they were happy to be able to participate in their cooperative’s democratic process with the online voting.”
Meeting New Needs
Pioneer’s service partner, ARC Media, developed the voting portal with the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives. The tool was launched in early 2020.
“We worked with the statewide association in Missouri to run trials and figure out where we needed to add or what we needed to change. Then COVID-19 happened, and interest ballooned.”
Pioneer’s online voting platform features:
- Unique utility website address
- Option to request a paper ballot
- Complement to in-person voting
- Encrypted, three-step identify verification
- Social media creative materials and targeted advertising
- While online voting definitely gained interest due to pandemic precautions, the trend toward online voting and engagement is not a one-time need.
“There’s a segment of your membership, which I believe is growing, that exists digitally,” Neidert says. “I pay my bills online. I would bet that you do as well. And you’re going to reach me a whole lot more effectively digitally or on social media.”