Vote.org Doubles Down on Paid Time Off To Vote
by Nora Gilbert, Director of Partnerships
Vote.org was founded on a simple principle: democracy is a cause worth fighting for. That’s why our team is committed to eradicating any and every barrier standing between Americans and our electoral process.
We know that significant obstacles remain for every American to be able to exercise their right to vote, and that this year places unique strains on our voters and our electoral systems. The confluence of a global pandemic and a weakened Voting Rights Act has resulted in polling place closures, poll worker shortages, and even longer lines — a burden borne disproportionately by black and brown voters.
As a result, this moment requires a true reimagining of the role that every institution can play both in removing roadblocks to voting, and proactively empowering voters to participate. While policy change is a key piece to this puzzle, in the absence of government leadership, corporate America has a pivotal role to play in expanding access to the ballot box this November. That’s why we’ve doubled down on our efforts to recruit companies and business leaders to join us as Electionday.org partners, by asking them to give their workers paid time off to vote. It’s a simple premise that all companies of any size can support, and one that will have an overwhelmingly positive and measurable effect on turnout.
We’ve re-launched our website with updated recommendations for 2020 and a clear statement of our operating premise: “No one should have to choose between their paycheck and their right to vote.” Simple enough, right? You’d think that we’d have figured this one out by now, but sadly, millions of Americans still wrestle with this trade-off in each election cycle.
In 2016, only 55.7% of eligible American voters cast a ballot in our Presidential election, placing us 26th out of 32 OECD member states, and well behind countries like Mexico, Canada, and the U.K. In past elections, 35% of voters cited scheduling conflicts with work as a primary factor keeping them from the polls. Fewer than half of our nation’s states require employers to give workers paid time off to vote.
While the onus to fix this does not exclusively fall on corporate America, companies are uniquely positioned to remove a significant barrier to voting. And in this moment of increased scrutiny of companies’ commitment to their proclaimed values of social and racial justice, employees and consumers alike are taking note of companies’ actions. Providing paid time off to vote is a critical way for corporate America to walk the walk, and one will have a lasting impact on the health of our democracy.
Our requirements for companies who join our Electionday.org campaign are simple and easy to implement. First and foremost, we ask that companies offer paid time off to vote not just on Election Day, but that policies be amended to give flexible paid time off to those who wish to vote early and those voting by mail. Second, we ask that employers not only remove work-related barriers to cast the ballot, but proactively publicize and distribute voter information company-wide. Ensuring that employees have the information they need in order to participate, including important deadlines, information on how to register and request an absentee ballot, what voting methods are available to them, and up-to-date polling place details, is proof of a company’s stated commitment to our shared principles. All of this information can be readily accessed on Vote.org’s website and through templates provided to participating companies, making company-wide distribution as easy as possible. We even have a page on our site that is devoted entirely to COVID-19-related voting information, which helps voters navigate the electoral process safely in the midst of a pandemic.
These two core asks are the floor, not the ceiling, of what a company can do to become a vote-friendly workplace. That’s why Electionday.org offers companies additional recommendations of policies and practices they can implement to go even further. For example, we encourage companies to push for 100% registration among their workforce, and to establish Election Day as a full company holiday. For voters needing to cast their ballots on Election Day, they’ll have the ability to do so without worrying about time constraints. For employees who voted early or by mail, they can use Election Day to help others in their community vote by serving as poll workers, offering childcare or elder care, providing rides to the polls, or supporting election protection efforts, for example.
We’re encouraged by the groundswell of interest from corporate leadership and employees alike, and in the last few weeks, we’ve seen companies from Twitter to Blue Apron join us in these commitments. However, there are still millions of workers around our country who will be asked to choose between their paycheck and their vote — that’s why we’re making our own commitment, to recruit 500 more companies to sign on before November.
It’s one thing to say that we all believe in every person’s right to vote. It’s another thing to take proactive steps towards making that belief a reality. At Vote.org, we’re doing all we can to welcome every American into the democratic process. And in partnership with business leaders around the country, we’ll be able to give American workers everything they need to make sure their voice is heard this November and in every election.
About the Author:
Nora Gilbert is the Director of Partnerships at Vote.org. Nora leads our work with corporate partners, content partners, movement partners, and influencers including our Electionday.org initiative and #voteready Summer Activation days.
Vote.org is the only Black-led voter engagement organization in the digital civic space. The organization has had a banner year in 2020, registering over one million voters, helping over one million voters request vote-by-mail ballots, and assisting more than two million voters in checking their voter status. With over 30 million visits to the website, nine million voter verifications, and four million vote-by-mail requests processed, Vote.org represents the largest voter engagement digital platform in the nation.