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Last week’s paper quoted Rappahannock Electric Cooperative board chair Chris Shipe who claimed that the threefold voter-turnout increase in the co-op’s board election this year was due to the availability of online voting for the first time. That’s simply incorrect. REC also allowed online voting in last year’s board election.
What was new in REC’s election this year is that the co-op increased by tenfold the number of prizes awarded to voters, and increased the prizes’ value by about fivefold, to almost $10,000. That turned this year’s election into a virtual lottery, which is why the number of voters tripled. To make matters worse, REC altered the proxy form this year to say that selecting a candidate was “optional.” This action served to encourage voters to leave that part of the form blank, thereby turning their vote over to the board.
Predictably, that led to a huge increase in board-controlled votes, making it essentially impossible for a challenging candidate to beat an incumbent. A 2018 National Rural Electric Cooperative Association report condemned just this sort of unfair election practice because electric co-ops are supposed to have boards elected by consumers, not incumbent board members.
REC's insistence on maintaining board-controlled election outcomes is inexcusable. It’s past time for REC to comply with the recommendation of its own trade association and conduct fair board elections.
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