As election day approaches and some states have begun early voting, many employers have questions about supporting employees as voters. Voting turnout is generally low in the United States, especially compared with other countries where voting is mandatory, because of the effort and loss of pay while voting during the work week. Some organizations have even called for election day to be a national holiday to encourage employers to provide time off of work. While these changes may or may not occur, employers can, and already are, providing options to support their employees' right to vote.
How Employers Can Support Employees' Right to Vote.
Add Vote Friendly Policies
Some states, such as Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Montana and Virginia, do recognize election day as a state holiday and employers must participate, at a minimum, in their state law requirements. Employers may also wish to expand upon their state policies to encourage even stronger voter participation.
The advocacy group ElectionDay.org has listed hundreds of companies that have already implemented vote-friendly policies in their workplace. According to statistics on the website, over 100 million eligible citizens didn't vote in 2016 and over a third of those who don't vote said that work or school prevented them from voting.
The group encourages employers to add their names to the growing list and commit to many of these policies:
- Publicize and distribute company-wide voter information
- Provide paid-time off both on and before election day
- Encourage 100% voter registration
Go Even Further to Get Out the Vote
Organizations have already stepped up to the plate to offer time off for voting. Patagonia, as an example, decided to close entirely on election day in 2016 and have continued the practice. They have since added their own take on voting to the tags in their clothing and their website. Other companies that have also decided to provide time off for voting include Uber, Twitter, Under Armour, Apple, Levi Strauss, Walmart, Best Buy, Nike, PayPal and more.
Patagonia, Levi Strauss and PayPal have another initiative called TimeToVote that started prior to the 2018 elections. Again, the website hosts a growing list of businesses who are committed to increasing voter participation. The only requirement to be added to the list is, "Your CEO or company leadership must pledge to ensure that your employees have the time they need to cast their ballots."
With the continued threat of the coronavirus, many older Americans who would normally be poll workers are choosing to opt out to stay healthy. Voting rights organizations, concerned about a poll worker shortage, began recruiting in haste when companies such as Old Navy, Target and Warby Parker stepped up. These companies announced that they would pay their employees to serve as poll workers. Employees who work the polls on election day can expect to be paid for eight hours of work.
Employers Make a Difference in our Democracy
Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, "“We do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”
The right to vote has been fought for since the inception of the United States. As an employer, you make a difference in our democracy by encouraging voter registration and participation. Providing information, time off and even registering voters in your onboarding process, can make the difference in ensuring that America has a government of the people, by the people and for the people.