Low rural voting turnout could be costly on big issues

Dec. 07, 2012 @ 12:03 AM

Editor:

Like many of you, my interest in voting was kindled by tagging along with my mom as she cast her vote. My parents made it clear voting was important, and they always made time to exercise their civic duty.

Of course, I thought pulling the lever was pretty cool, too. So my young son was excited when I told him he could help me vote and even help push the buttons. Imagine my surprise when on election day he came downstairs in his newest and nicest church clothes. For him to dress up told me he knew what we were doing was important.

Here in Tennessee, just short of 2.5 million people voted in the presidential election. Across the country, almost 122 million people voted. Compared to the same election four years ago, though, there were 11 million fewer votes cast. This is in spite of nearly two years of constant media attention and nearly $2 billion spent on the Presidential campaigns.

However, one pattern was clear. Voter turnout was high in large urban and metropolitan areas. Voter turnout in rural and suburban areas fell behind.

That is a troubling conclusion when you consider other important facts. Population in America’s largest cities is growing faster than that of small cities and towns. Also, the recently completed census resulted in reapportionment that concentrated more legislative representation in urban areas.

That, my friends, is a triple whammy. More people, more representation, and greater turnout will result in urban centers getting the first shot when big decisions are made in Washington and Nashville.

Think of it this way: In a basketball game between big cities and small towns, Team Big City has more players on the team, a bigger gym and more fans. Who do you think the oddsmakers will favor?

Why is this important? Many of the pressing issues of our time impact Americans differently based upon where they live. The future of how we consume energy is paramount among them. Whether you use electricity, natural gas, propane, diesel, or gasoline, America’s energy policy affects you in powerful ways.

Further, how will rural areas successfully compete for jobs in the 21st century economy? Access to key infrastructure like roads and bridges, has always been important. But in a changing world, what is the new infrastructure?

Access to high-speed broadband is vitally important for the future of rural America. Government has tremendous influence over broadband, and energy providers will increasingly be relied upon to serve the most remote among us.

Your local power company is working hard to ensure government does not forget about those beyond the city limits. Go to www.ourenergy.coop to learn more about those efforts.

You see, our civic duties don’t end at the ballot box; that is where they begin. Now that our elected representatives must govern, they must hear from you. And those who speak the most clearly, with purpose and vision and in the greatest numbers will be successful.

Mike Knotts

Tenn. Electric Cooperative Assn.

Nashville