Congratulations to the electric cooperatives across the state! KEC and its 27 member co-ops were recently recognized by NRECA for receiving 5-Star Co-op status statewide. Currently, Kansas is the only state to have every electric cooperative qualify for this honor through the Co-ops Vote program.
The Co-ops Vote program is designed to inform members on key issues and encourage them to engage with policymakers, including efforts to get them to participate in the election process. The NRECA began the 5-Star Co-op Program as a way to applaud co-ops for their engagement in the Co-op’s Vote program and increasing rural voter turnout.
As cooperative legislative efforts change each year, the Co-op’s Vote events follow the same pattern. This year, electric co-ops hosted 21 individual Co-op’s Vote events to support statewide cooperative legislative efforts. Tara Mays, KEC’s director of government relations, helped organize the events and explained the success of the program throughout the state can be directly attributed to the multitude of local events.
“In 2019, we included more individual events at the electric cooperatives and invited state, federal, and local elected officials to join us to learn about the issues facing rural electric cooperatives,” Mays said.
During these events, policymakers learned about policy issues important to the electric co-op and their members. These issues included ensuring affordable and reliable power in rural areas and local economic impact. Many Kansas co-ops also discussed the potential of rural broadband access and distribution for rural residents. Overall, Kansas Co-ops Vote events helped reach more than 75 state legislators, 2 statewide elected offices, 40 local officials, and 7 U.S. Congressional and Senatorial staffers.
Jim Matheson, NRECA chief executive officer, was able to address Kansas’ electric co-op trustees during the KEC annual meeting on Jan. 27. Matheson spoke to the co-op’s involvement in C-op’s Vote and readiness to participate.
“Kansas embraced Co-ops Vote more than any other state,” said Matheson.
NRECA has evolved the Co-ops Vote program to a two-year cycle which allows cooperatives to become 5-Star qualified during the entirety of an election cycle. With these changes, Kansas co-ops will retain their 5-Star status reached in 2019 for the 2020 year.
As KEC looks to the upcoming months, staff plans to continue to encourage co-ops to be involved in Co-op’s Vote.
“This year, we’re looking at hosting more regionalized events with electric co-ops,” Mays explained. “We are grateful to everyone that helps us organize these important efforts and we hope to continue to participate with new partners in 2020.”
Mays added, “We’re continuing to look at ways that we can engage with all elected officials and how we can incorporate the youth programming into the Co-ops Vote program to continue to build on our grassroots efforts.”