I had every intention of voting early in our primary. I even wrote “VOTE” in large capital letters in my calendar app. But then I forgot to go. By the time I remembered, the library had closed and early voting had ended. So, this week, I headed to our local elementary school on Tuesday morning to vote in person. Everyone volunteering wore face shields and masks. A police officer monitored the door. Two wardens sat at a desk. Two others checked you in. I have voted at least 50 times in my life, but I gained new appreciation for how many people it takes to run a polling place. I was the 161st voter of the morning as of 8:50am.
The United States has one of the lowest voter participation rates in the world—56% in the last presidential election. Voting in 2020 is expected to be much harder than normal with longer wait times and lines due to the pandemic. With locations closing due to a lack of volunteer poll workers, some voters may not know where they are supposed to be. During her speech at the Democratic National Convention, Michelle Obama encouraged people to pack a lunch, bring a chair, and be prepared to wait all night if they must.
While a number of countries like India, France, and South Korea make Election Day a national holiday from work, the U.S. does not observe it as a federal holiday. A bill to make it one has languished in Congress—although a few states, including New York and Virginia, have made it a state holiday.
In anticipation of innumerable voting challenges this year, a nonpartisan movement, Time to Vote, is gaining significant momentum among businesses to give people time to vote. So far, nearly 700 businesses, representing companies—Unilever, Dell, and Cox Enterprises for example—have joined. The pledge asks companies to give employees time off to vote and to facilitate the process of voting by helping with voter registrations, reminders, polling location guidance and vote by mail assistance. If just the top 10 employers in the US signed onto this pledge (excluding the federal government), it would cover over 5 million working adults.
WeSpire has recently joined Time to Vote, and I would encourage every other leader to consider joining as well. We have made Election Day an official holiday and are encouraging our workforce to volunteer as poll workers wherever they can. We have also partnered with Rock the Vote, to create campaigns for our platform to motivate and inspire employees at our customers to register and actively vote.
The ability to vote in the United States has been a hard fought battle for many people and new barriers continue to emerge. The pandemic is one more significant hurdle. What businesses joining Time to Vote know is that democracy is good for business. Research from the World Bank and Freedom house show a strong correlation between democratic institutions, respect for human rights, and better conditions for business.
As we begin the countdown to election day, make a deliberate plan to vote yourself. Start asking everyone you know what their plan to vote is. Make “how you plan to vote” conversation the social norm for your friends, family, and colleagues. Then, whether by mail, during early voting, or on election day in-person, go do it. No matter the outcome, it is critical that you exercise this incredible right and privilege and make your voice count.
Quote of the Week: “Every election is determined by the people who show up.” — Larry Sabato