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Arab Electric Co-Op Meeting
Draws Large Mail-In Vote

Also Sparks Confusion and Some Controversy

Jeff McLemore (L) and Roy Smallwood, Jr. (R) were re-elected during the Arab Electric Cooperative Annual Meeting.  Seth Sullivan (Center) unseated incumbent Monte Davis.  Photo by Dwight Hayes

August 23, 2008
The good news was that approximately 4,000 votes were cast in the Arab Electric Co-Op Annual Meeting on Saturday.  The bad news was that it wasn't without some confusion which sparked a lengthy debate during the meeting.

After struggling for many years to have a quorum for business meetings, the new mail-in voting relieved that problem this year.  According to Mercer and Associates, the CPA firm that handled the voting, some 3,896 votes were cast by mail and 165 votes were cast during the meeting.

Two incumbents were re-elected while one was defeated.  Incumbent Jeff McLemore, defeated challenger Thomas Gullion by a vote of 2,368 to 1,450.  Roy Smallwood, Jr., also an incumbent, led the vote against challenger Adam Goss.  Smallwood polled 1,950 votes while Goss received 1,788.  Board President Lamonte Davis was defeated by first time challenger Seth Sullivan.  Sullivan won with 1,983 votes to Davis' 1,787 votes.

The board met in an organizational meeting immediately after the annual meeting in order to elect officers.  Brian Walker was elected President, Jeff McLemore Vice-President and Max Hyatt elected as secretary.

AEC officials were happy with the response generated by the first time mail-in ballots.  AEC members approved the mail-in option during last years meeting.  Attendance at the meeting dropped significantly from previous years as members took advantage of the new voting method.

The new method of voting was not without some confusion and controversy.  AEC attorney, Claude Burke, told those in attendance that a "significant glitch" had been discovered with the new method.  According to Burke, past voting rules allowed for one vote per person no matter how many electric meters that they have.  The only exception was if a member had a home meter and also owned a corporation or limited liability company which is a legal entity in and of itself.  In prior years AEC staff were able to monitor the onsite voting assuring that members did not vote multiple times.  Burke, said that because of old data, the AEC computer system was unable to distinguish between corporate and personal memberships and most businesses did not receive a ballot.

Arab business man Robert Ballew said that was not fair.  "I own five businesses and have five meters, but I was only able to vote once."  Ballew told the group.  "I pay five bills so I think I should be able to vote each membership." Ballew added.

Janet Bright, another Arab business owner, told the group that she carried documentation of her corporation to the AEC office but was still denied a chance to vote both memberships.

In contrast, Ronny Shumate, an Arab City Council member, said that he received two ballots, one for his home and one for his horse barn.  "My wife and I were able to cast two votes." Shumate said.  Joking about the situation, Shumate said "I appreciate the $10 savings on my bill."

Burke acknowledged that several similar situations had occurred as the system tried to work through the new method.  "I am recommending that the Board form a committee made up of several members at large and several board members to address the problem and make a recommendation at next years meeting."

Burke said under the current rules of changing the bylaws it will probably take two years to get a final solution.  That did not sit well with Ballew who asked why a motion could not be made immediately to allow multiple votes.  Burke told Ballew that it would be better to let a committee explore the matter and make a recommendation at the next meeting.  "In the past we have had people try to vote their electric fence, well pump and other things.  Large corporations such as the phone company or cable company might have 50 meters or more which would allow them to have greater say than a individual member." Burke added.

Seth Sullivan made a motion to allow a vote for each meter but later withdrew the motion at the urging of Burke.  Ballew and Bright volunteered to serve on the committee.

Mike Davis, who does not own a business, said "everyone should consider the value gained from having 4,000 votes cast instead of the normal 700 votes cast during a regular meeting."  "I feel that allowing multiple votes would diminish my vote." he added.

The issue was eventually tabled until a committee makes a recommendation.

The awarding of door prizes also drew some criticism.  Unlike prior years, persons whose names were drawn for prizes did not have to be present to win.  All fifteen of the prize winners were mail-in votes.  Former AEC board member Johnny Chamness said that at least a portion of the prizes should be reserved for those attending the meeting.  "These people thought enough of their co-op to actually attend the meeting and no one won a prize.  I think anyone who comes to the meeting should be guaranteed a chance at some of the prizes".  Burke said he agreed and would refer the matter to the Board.

Those winning $50 were:
George King
Patricia Williams
John Chapman
Vanessa Lewis
Carl Wisener
Ronald Cowell
J. W. Wilson
Ricky Perkins
Carolyn Gaines
Cynthia Penn

$100 winners were:
Miltria Wray
Kerry Walker
Duane Moore
Betty Stricklend
Danny Ballew