For the first time in its history, Grady EMC has started a mail-in ballot procedure to get input from members on leadership and co-op decisions. We know that there will be some adjustments to this new system, but believe that the benefits far outweigh the challenges that come with the initial learning curve. This new system will make it easier for members to vote, especially those who are typically unable to attend the annual meeting. It’s easy, but it’s different, so we want to be sure we explain the process as best we can.
To be clear: we are not taking away the opportunity for members to vote at the annual meeting. Members who attend the meeting can cast their votes there just as they always have. We are simply adding the mail-in ballots as an additional option for those who won’t be able to attend the meeting or who want to vote early. These mail-in ballots have been sent to every member at their billing address. Instructions and candidate biographies are included in the packet.
What happens if someone takes the ballot to Grady EMC or the annual meeting instead of mailing it in?
The Grady EMC elections committee requests that all ballots be mailed to the third-party ballot processor. Ballots will be counted if the intent of the member casting the vote is clear no matter how they turn in the ballot, as long as it is not an illegal or duplicate vote. Election committee members will ultimately decide if there are questions about a member’s intent on the ballot. They will also ensure there are no duplicate votes or other irregularities. The direction provided to committee members making these decisions has been clear: we want every member’s voice to count. If a member makes an effort to vote and the intent of the vote is clear, we will find a way to make sure their vote is counted. If it’s a case where someone is trying to trick the system by voting multiple times, those, of course, will be thrown out.
So, if someone drops their ballot in the overnight window, we have a sealed and verified locked box in which to place them. The elections committee will bring these ballots to the meeting and ultimately decide on how to include them in the process but encourages all members to mail their ballots.
We are confident in our system, the company we have partnered with and the integrity of our members. We are glad we are able to include more people in the process of making Grady EMC the best it can possibly be.
Why do we have to shade the entire box on the new mail-in ballots?
This is a requirement from the ballot company. They use a scanner to count the ballots and that scanner reads boxes that are shaded in, so that’s the correct way to fill in the ballot. Other marks can cause a misread by the computers, so they ask members to fully shade in each vote they make. This is a common requirement for any tabulation that is done by computer – like Scantron sheets for standardized tests and other types of forms. You may have read that if a member does make a mistake and marks their ballot with an “X” or a check mark that their vote will not be counted. This is not true. If the computer recognizes an attempt to mark a ballot but cannot fully interpret which box was shaded, individuals from the third-party ballot counting company will review the ballot. If the intent of the voter is clear, they will count the vote and add it to the final tally.
How are you going to make sure the ballots that are mailed in are authentic and not photocopied?
The third-party vendor that oversees the ballot creation, distribution and counting takes careful consideration to prevent fake ballots from being submitted and counted. Each ballot has a unique control number that matches assigned member/voter numbers. These barcodes cannot be replicated and must match the assigned member. When the ballots are sent in, the vendor will validate them before running them through the computer, making sure they are original and align with the members’ assigned numbers.
What do I need to do to get an energy audit?
Contact customer service and we will be happy to schedule this free service for any member. It’s a good way to determine how to save money on your energy bill. Please call 229.377.4182 option 2 and discuss this option with customer service.
Is Grady EMC afraid of a forensic audit? Why won’t you do one to prove everything’s OK?
We are not afraid of a forensic audit. We think the audits we already complete every year show how well run the EMC is and that a forensic audit would place an unnecessary strain on our financial resources – a burden that would ultimately be placed upon our member ratepayers. That said, we are open to exploring the option of having one done if our members believe it to be needed. In fact, we have asked Director Ronald Sellers to find a company that could provide the service and get a scope and cost and time frame. He declined. We asked member Ed DeMartini who has been pushing for this service to do the same. He declined. Our understanding is that these are very expensive, costs can be in the millions, and time consuming, we handle thousands of transactions a year, and we need to have good information before moving forward with it.
Grady EMC used to have some of the lowest rates in the state. Why are rates climbing now?
We are proud of the rates we are able to keep for our members. Two years ago, they were among the lowest in the state, but we have been climbing those rankings recently and there are several reasons for that. Right now, we rank in the middle when compared to other EMCs across the state and our rates are lower than most similarly-sized EMCs in our area. The reasons are weather, efficiency and what’s happened with some of our bigger accounts.
Like just about any business, if the EMC sells less product, it has to raise its per unit prices to bring in enough money to cover those fixed costs of providing service such as maintenance and operations of the system. Weather has been a big factor. Our summer this year just didn’t stay as hot as usual for long periods of time. That means members were not using their A/C as much. Also, a lot of members are following our advice and using more efficient systems in their homes. This also reduces the amount of power the co-op sells. The weather also meant that some of our biggest accounts, like the SOWEGA/Baconton Power Plant, did not get used as much as in past years. That also reduced the amount of power we sold. All that adds up to rising rates for members but should also lead to lower overall bills. Our fixed costs remain the same. We must continue to repair and update infrastructure to make sure the power is reliable. That’s what dictates the rising rates and utilities nationally are facing the same challenges.