Democracy and Voting in Credit Unions: Does it Mean Anything?

In an election late last year 157,655 members were asked whether they should merger their eight-decade old, successful, super performing community charter with over $2.1 billion in assets.

Here are the voting results certified to the NCUA:

  • 7,331 or 4.65% of members voted
  • 6,658 or 4.4% voted in favor
  • 473 or .3% voted against the merger

150,324 or 95.35% of members did not vote on the future of their credit union.

Of those voting only two did so in person, the rest by mailed ballot.

Is This What Cooperative Democracy Should Be?

Is this “democratic” when only 4.6% of the share owners vote?

Were members even aware of what was happening to their credit union?

How could such low participation occur on such a consequential issue?

Most important, is this perfunctory, minimalist process right for members? Their community? The credit union system? And cooperatives’ role in America’s economy?

Does Your Vote or Even Voting Matter?

We are all living in an election season where everyone is being urged to vote. Court battles are being waged over time limits on early voting, number of drop boxes, how long after November 3rd ballots can be counted, and numerous other election processes.

Every media outlet is tracking not just candidate debates and policy positions, but the voting activity itself. Will the outcome be seen as fair? Are votes being suppressed by changing rules?

Voting matters. We all get this. In a democracy public acceptance of the outcome depends on the perceived legitimacy of an election. For every level of government. Or any other election determined event.

While people will have different interpretations of the numbers from Schools Financial’s member vote to merge with SchoolsFirst, I think we would agree on one observation: This is not what a democratically labeled outcome should look like.

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