POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Credit Unions

Credit unions are mutual financial institutions which offer a wide range of products including saving accounts, current accounts and loans. Since credit unions are a form of cooperative, the members elect the board of directors who run the credit union on their behalf.

In the United States, credit unions can be regulated on either the federal or state level of government. In Canada, credit unions are usually incorporated and regulated on the provinicial and territorial levels. Only recently have Canadian credit unions been able to incorporate under federal law.

Credit Unions' Role in Society

Credit unions have a strong community focus and are an alternative to traditional, profit-seeking banks. Generally speaking, credit unions are set up to benefit a specific group of people or communities which share a common bond. This common bond may be either:

  • Geographical – members live in the same local area
  • Associational – members are part of a particular group e.g. a church
  • Occupational – members work for the same employer or in the same sector

Currently there are around 6,800 credit unions in Canada and the United States, with just over 115 million members in total. 

Board of Directors Election 

The members own the credit union and therefore have a say in how the credit union is run. The most important decision is electing their board of directors, who run the credit union on behalf of the members. In most credit unions, voting takes place at the Annual General Meeting (AGM). However, there is usually an option to vote by post or by proxy. 

See also: Online voting, postal vote, regulation, voter turnout

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