(Benson) Increased turnout on the part of rural voters is emerging as one of the factors that may have helped Donald Trump win the presidential election, as election officials across the nation continue to analyze polling place returns and other data.
Phil Bashaw, director of government relations and grassroots advocacy at the Grand Canyon State Electric Cooperative Association (GCSECA), said rural voters reversed a trend that was seen in 2012.
“We saw an alarming decrease of 18 percent in the number of rural voters who turned out for the 2012 general election, something that was especially troubling considering the fact that rural areas are still struggling from the 2008 recession to a much greater degree than people in urban and metro areas, and challenges still remain,” Bashaw said.
“It’s one of the reasons we pushed so hard for Arizona’s electric cooperatives to join the Co-ops Vote campaign,” Bashaw said. “When turnout declines, our issues receive less attention, not only during the election but during the lawmaking process as well.”
“We had a lot at stake, not just in the presidential election, but with every Congressional, state legislative, and local race as well – and we were overwhelmingly successful in seeing those candidates elected who supported our positions on especially onerous regulations like the Clean Power Plan,” Bashaw said.
Arizona G&T Cooperatives quickly gained Five-Star status in the Co-ops Vote campaign with its grass-roots advocacy for getting out the rural vote, starting with a video produced when Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) spoke at the GCSECA annual summer meeting in Flagstaff.
McCain talked on camera about the need for rural voters to go to the polls to make sure their voices would be heard on Election Day. The video was used on the AzGT website and distributed on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. Other Arizona co-ops used the video and distributed it as well.
The G&Ts also produced printed material for GCSECA and the member cooperatives, and promoted the Co-ops Vote campaign on social media.
“We give Arizona G&T Cooperatives a lot of credit for taking a lead role in promoting the importance of rural voters, and the Five-Star status is well-deserved,” Bashaw said.
(From Electric Co-op Today/Cathy Cash): At the national level, NRECA CEO Jim Matheson said the Co-ops Vote program made a difference.
“We really do feel quite confident that our Co-ops Vote program had significant impact on voter turnout,” said Matheson. “Rural America’s voice was heard in this election and it will be a powerful voice moving forward.”
The election results also amplified NRECA’s position as the “most significant voice for rural America in Washington,” Matheson said.
“It’s important that the Trump administration and the next Congress work in partnership with electric co-ops on common-sense goals like modernizing the nation’s energy infrastructure and enhancing the quality of life in our communities,” Matheson said.
Rural voters overwhelmingly cited financial distress compared to their urban or suburban counterparts in preliminary data from exit polls conducted by ABC News Analysis Desk.
Specifically, 72 percent of rural voters gave the economy a negative rating while 57 percent of urban voters and 63 percent of suburban voters did, the analysis said.
The analysis also found that 36 percent of voters from rural areas said they were “worse off financially” now compared to 2012 while 20 percent of the urban voters and 28 percent of suburban dwellers responded the same way.