Voting is a basic democratic right and is the best way people can make their voices heard. It can also be a time-consuming process that some eligible voters may feel is not worth the hassle. The US has one of the lowest voter turnout rates and is one of the few democracies in the world where Election Day is during the week and not a public holiday. This feature of our electoral process disenfranchises many lower-wage workers and working parents who can’t afford to miss work and who don’t have childcare options after working hours.
This is why we believe in the Time to Vote campaign.
WHAT IS THE TIME TO VOTE CAMPAIGN?
Time to Vote is a nonpartisan, business-led coalition to help ensure workers across America don’t have to choose between voting and earning a paycheck. The movement was founded by Levi Strauss & Co., Patagonia, and PayPal ahead of the 2018 midterm elections. At that time, 411 companies representing all 50 states and a variety of industries joined, including Wordbank. Time to Vote companies are looking to increase voter turnout through paid time off for voting and through other voting education initiatives. And the movement is making an impact. In 2018, more than half of US eligible voters cast a ballot, the highest turnout rate for a midterm election in recent history.
The movement just surpassed its goal of having over 1,000 companies join before the November 3 election. Representing a variety of industries from all over the country, Time to Vote members include Patagonia, Levi Strauss, PayPal, New Balance, Google, Etsy, and Nike, to name a few.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to how companies can get involved. The only commitment they ask is that members make time to vote. That may include providing voting information, access to early voting or vote-by-mail options, or offering paid time off to vote on Election Day. From a full day to a few hours, or a flex day or no-meetings day, companies can choose what works for them. Time to Vote has a repository of resources for members to use, including talking points and marketing toolkits.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO US?
As a certified B Corp, we already encourage our people to drive positive change in our communities. We’re in the business of international connection and engagement. So we also believe it’s important for Wordbankers to be engaged in the wider world through volunteering, environmental awareness/action, and by keeping up with global events. For us, involved citizenship is also about supporting our democracy through the voting process.
When we heard of the Time to Vote initiative in 2018, it was a no-brainer for us to join since it was something we were already doing. We made a goal of reaching 100% Wordbanker turnout in the midterm elections – and achieved it. How did we do it?
We made a clear commitment to create a culture around voting and to instill in our values that Wordbankers are voters. Since then, voting – the discussion, the research, the preparation – is simply what we do. Here are some of the ways we achieved 100% voter turnout:
- Providing information & help on voter registration and election/ballot initiatives. We sent a series of emails with important dates and links to resources, including non-partisan education about ballot initiatives. We also held an in-office “check your voter registration” event.
- Removing barriers. We are lucky to live in Colorado, which has one of the leading mail-in ballot systems in the country. But we still found some practical barriers that we could help remove. We provided stamps and transportation to polling locations. And we also encouraged people to take time during the work day to research ballot initiatives and fill out ballots.
- Providing time off to vote. On Election Day, we checked in with each Wordbanker. For those who hadn’t yet voted, we encouraged them to drop off their ballot or go to a polling location.
THINKING BEYOND VOTING IN 2020
This year, we’re taking it one step further. We know that Wordbankers vote, but voting is just the first step. As Election Day approaches during a global pandemic, voting access and safety is a concern for many. Ongoing voter suppression efforts target communities of color in an attempt to achieve broadscale voter apathy. We have a responsibility to help ensure that everyone votes – and that every vote is counted.
We’re encouraging Wordbankers to use their Volunteer Time Off (VTO) this year to:
- Be poll workers to help ensure there are enough safe, fully staffed polling locations.
- Volunteer for National Voter Registration Day.
- Join the Vote Forward campaign and encourage disenfranchised voters to vote.
We also encourage our people to hold elected officials accountable after they’re in office and to stay involved in local issues. Elections are about more than just elected office. Ballot initiatives, policies, and funding decisions play a significant role in our everyday lives.
No one should have to choose between earning a paycheck and voting. We believe every company has the responsibility to support their people in exercising their basic democratic right. Business leaders must step up and do what’s right to ensure their people have the time and resources to make their voices count. The Time To Vote campaign demonstrates the power of what the business community can achieve when it works to address the most significant issues of our time.