In the midst of endless campaign ads and mail pieces that cast wild accusations about candidates from every conceivable angle, it is increasingly easy for us all to become jaded about politics and politicians. While I understand and share the frustrations with our current political discourse, it is incredibly important for leaders in the credit union industry to continue to share with staff, volunteers, and members how important it is to continue to exercise their rights as citizens to cast votes on Nov. 8 and have their voices heard.
Credit unions can help play a large part in furthering our democracy. With over 110 million credit union members, approximately one in three people in America belong to a credit union, and 44% of all registered voters are credit union members. With our structure of leadership elected from amongst our members and the role we play in our local towns and cities, credit unions are a living testament to the principles of democracy. Much like our government, credit unions operate better and deliver quality service when the membership is active and engaged. As trusted members of our respective communities, credit unions are ideally placed to be a non-partisan voice of encouragement to get out the vote.
One of the things that sets credit union political engagement apart from other groups – credit unions support an almost equal number of Democrats and Republicans. Truly, that bipartisan support is more and more rare these days and is something that we as an industry are rightfully proud of. It also is why we’ve seen great success with our Grassroots Advocacy efforts and our ability to get things done for credit unions and our communities in such a polarizing time. It’s imperative for our employees, our members, and our communities that elected officials in both parties understand and support credit union issues and our mission of Financial Wellbeing for All.
Credit unions are a highly regulated industry. Competition in the financial services marketplace, consumer protections and rules, and the product and services that credit unions offer are directly affected by legislators and policymakers. Legislators and regulators across the political spectrum need to understand how credit unions put their members first and provide access to affordable financial services. Support of credit union friendly candidates helps our movement have a strong, unified voice in legislative and regulatory decisions, and creates an environment for credit unions to thrive and grow to serve their members.
For those who would like to help build up participation in the election, there are any number of resources to share with your members and employees on voter registration timelines, polling locations and information on candidates. Your state’s Secretary of State’s website is a great place to start. CUNA has also put together a comprehensive website Credit Unions Vote, and many state leagues offer local resources and credit union voting guides as well.
Robert Maynard Hutchins, a longtime President, and later Chancellor of the University of Chicago, once astutely observed that, “The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.” It is incumbent on all of us in the credit union movement to get involved and encourage others to do the same. Get out and vote on Nov. 8!