Take Part In An American Tradition: 4 Ways Your Business Can Help Its Employees Vote In The 2020 Election
Everywhere we look, it’s easy to determine that we are in the final months of the American voting season — and every organization, from small businesses to giant corporations, is discovering ways to be politically active, encouraging employees to take part in their civic duty, and giving employees time to vote.
According to data collected by the United States Election Project, the voter turnout for the 2016 election was 60.1%. The very next election, the midterms of 2018, subsequently brought out the highest voter turnout of any midterm election in a century at 49.4% — and while an increase in voter participation is certainly to be heralded, the numbers still show there is room for improvement in increasing the number of voices casting their vote. The reality is: The United States trails most other developed nations in voter turnout.
Small businesses can help to change those numbers. They can follow the lead of other major organizations like Target, Uber, and LEGO by making voting a priority.
The nonprofit/nonpartisan organization Time To Vote is a business-led (Patagonia is a co-founder) initiative encouraging companies to make time for their employees to vote. At the moment, over 700 companies have committed to, “giving employees access to and information about early voting or vote-by-mail options, offering paid time off on Election Day or making it a day without meetings,” according to its website. The organizers also explained:
One of the most common reasons people give for not voting is that they’re too busy with the demands of work and life. To address this barrier and increase voter participation, a diverse coalition of companies came together…to launch Time To Vote. The companies made a commitment to ensure that their employees had a work schedule that allowed them time to vote… This movement is a non-partisan effort that demonstrates the power of what the business community can achieve when it works to address the most significant issues of our time. Together, we can have an even greater impact.
It is also true that many states across America have voter-leave laws that require employers to give time off to vote. Businesses curious about the voter-leave laws in their state can consult Workplacefairness.org for a handy state-by-state resource with a breakdown of which states have laws and how much time is allowed. The website reminds employees and employers alike that in some places the cost of violating those laws can be steep. “In New York and Colorado, companies essentially face a corporate death sentence if they violate the time-off-to-vote law. They could lose their corporate charter if they bar a worker from voting. In Arizona, Missouri, and Kansas, supervisors face fines of up to $2,500 if they block someone from voting,” they said.
Of course, even if you are located in a state that does not have a voter-leave law, you have the choice to close/give your employees time off to vote. The research says that there is a benefit both for your employees and for your brand if you — as a company — flex those pro-democracy muscles.
According to research conducted by the Harvard Business Review:
Understanding this dynamic is increasingly important; we know politics at work can be tricky, but there’s evidence that corporate political engagement is beneficial to businesses. Studies show that consumers are more loyal to brands that take a clear stance on issues they care about. But taking a partisan approach to civic engagement can alienate employees or customers in today’s hyperpartisan environment. Our study finds a sweet spot for firms: being pro-democracy and pro-voter, without being partisan.
But how can you do that? What does that look like? How can a small business find that “sweet spot” with their employees? Well, here are a few tips to get you started.
Table of Contents
1. Register Voters
Are your employees registered to vote? Do they know how/where to register? One expression small businesses will hear is that the key to participation is lowering the barriers your employees have casting a vote; and one of the major barriers is a lack of information about how to vote. Some may not even have registered. You could hold a registration drive or send out reminders about checking registration statuses.
This year, BIPAC (Business and Industry Political Action Committee) is sponsoring an Employee Voter Registration Week, September 21-25, 2020. Their website includes a list of resources for businesses, including social media graphics and voting infographics.
2. Prioritize Participation Over Party
You understand the culture of your company — there might be a voting message particularly pertinent for your demographics. However, helping employees vote is more about prioritizing the act of voting and creating a more equitable voting situation than using company time to engage in partisan politics. Employees do not want, nor do they need, to be told how to vote.
However, employees might welcome vetted resources, study materials, and time/opportunities to engage with local, state, and national voting issues/voter’s pamphlets prior to election day. Especially in an age where some employees might be tempted to make voting choices based on headlines and memes, it’s important to make education a priority. Give employees the time and tools to make informed choices. Celebrate thoughtful engagement over divisive rhetoric.
Employees might also benefit from a celebration of participation. If the country’s obsessing with voting stickers is any indication, company celebrations marking employee achievements in voting is a fantastic way to send the message that you and your business care about voting. It could also just be a sticker: “I voted & [My Company] is proud of me!”
3. Give Employees Time To Vote
What does giving employees time to vote look like? That is going to depend largely on your state, your county, and what voting looks like in your area. As an Oregonian, mail-in ballots afford me and many of my colleagues the opportunity to sit down and fill out a ballot in the comfort of our own homes. Businesses in states with mail-in ballots (or that have employees voting with absentee ballots) can give employees time during their day to vote and mail their ballots.
For other states, giving time might look more like offering a day off to vote, allowing flexible schedules on election day, or providing paid hours to vote. If working is the biggest hindrance to voting, then lower that barrier: Stop or stagger your employees, and send the message that our democracy and country matters to you.
4. Help Make Voting Accessible For All Your Employees
What is the message you are sending about getting to the polls? Does your company’s social media scream VOTE, while your own employees lack access?
The biggest tip is to engage with your employees and discover what tools they need to vote. Is it time? Great. Is it childcare? A ride to a polling station? Education about the ballot measures in their native language? Find out what is preventing your employees from voting. Then, out of those barriers, determine which ones can you help with.
Make Sure Everybody’s Voice Is Heard
The old saying that Democracy is not a spectator sport is true here, and any small business owner understands that local, state, and federal laws can impact small businesses directly. Voting shapes our world, and if you value the people who work for you, then you also value the issues that they face in their daily lives. What matters most is making sure people feel heard and understood. Voting is one method of being heard, but expressing value in voting goes beyond civic duty: If you are able, ensure each employee has the tools to be heard and have their voice counted.
Demonstrating you are a socially responsible company is vital, culturally important, and (if authentic) adds value to your brand. Remember: if you are using your election season social media accounts to reach consumers with a message to vote, be very sure you’ve prioritized voting for the people in your company first. Make it important, make it easy, and help your employees make it to the polls this November.